20th Century Fox
Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director: Steve McQueen
Screenwriter: Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Liam Neeson
Screened at: AMC 34th St., NYC, 11/5/18
Opens: November 16, 2018
With our own midterm elections just behind us and with discussions that will probably linger for a few more weeks with the TV pundits, politics is very much on our minds. That makes “Widows” a movie which, while not dealing with Trump or Cohen or Hannity or Huffington, might be “ripped from the headlines.” While the concentration is on the mostly African-American ward in Chicago’s South Side rather than with the nation as a whole, “Widows” could stand in for goes on among the people who should be representing us but instead, surprise! are in the business for themselves.
Director Steve McQueen, whose “12 Years a Slave” is, like “Widows,” a look into the corruption of the American empire, then as a freed man is abducted and sold back into slavery, now tackles not only politics and ethics but focuses on problems with gender bias, racist thinking, and the contradictions of capitalism. “Widows” is brilliantly acted particularly by the awesome Viola Davis, but is marred by an overly complex, confusingly edited handling of the plot written by the director and Gillian Flynn.
McQueen opens the movie in the way that so many screenwriting advisors recommend: with a bang. With quite a few bangs, in fact. Mobster Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and his wife Veronica (Viola Davis) are kissing in bed, standing up, and pre- and post-shower. Cut to the scene so common in blockbusters. A job has gone wrong, the SWAT team lets loose with automatic firepower, and Harry is killed. Problems are just beginning for Vernoica as a crime lord, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) determines that the two million dollars of his, now up in smoke , visits the grieving woman and demands that she pay him back within one month.
When Veronica is not grieving, she’s is carrying her small West Highland Terrier in her arms as though the dog were a stuffed Teddy, which makes you wonder whether the pup is a Mac Guffin or the key to the big twist that comes some three-quarters into the 130 minute movie. Occasionally grounding the dog–surprisingly phlegmatic for a terrier—she assembles other widows in a plot to get five million dollars. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) a mother with a shop that has been taken over by the gang, Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), a tall, blond, Polish American whose own mother (Jackie Weaver) pimps her out, and Belle (Cynthia Erivo), a hairdresser assigned to be the getaway driver.
If that plot is not complex enough for you, much is made of the candidacy of handsome, slick Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), driven to run for alderman by his racist father Tom (Robert Duvall) to keep the power in the hands of white people. His opponent, an African-American, refuses to withdraw from the race while both seek the endorsement of the ward’s leading preacher. Yet many African-American women will vote for Mulligan because he provided them with the loans (they were refused by the banks) to open their own businesses. But there’s a catch, and that brings in serial killer Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya—the great actor who shined in last year’s best movie, “Get Out”, the only performer who could begin to match Viola Davis).
Confusing, needs a second viewing to unscramble the erratic editing, great acting, good visuals.
130 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B