A Most Unwanted Debt Repayment Program: Widows
Widows takes a look at three women facing a dire predicament. The women, all of whom were married to big-time thieves, receive a demand to make restitution when their husbands die following a chase and a shootout involving Chicago police. Their final job involved the taking of $2 million from an aldermanic candidate. After the funerals, Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) receives a visit from Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), whose funds were appropriated. He gives Veronica two weeks to repay those stolen funds, promising repercussions if she doesn't comply. Jamal's enforcer brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), has already killed the men tasked with guarding the money unsuccessfully. Veronica retrieves the effects of her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson) from a safety deposit box. She discovers he had one more robbery planned, one that would repay Manning and more. She reaches out to the other widows, and two of them agree to help. Linda Perelli (Michelle Rodriguez) is a young mother who just lost her shop to cover her husband's gambling debts. Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki) has become an escort to support herself. Together, they take their own crash course in larceny without much outside assistance.
The plans, of course, do not go smoothly. First, Jatemme confronts the Rawlings' driver, Bash (Garret Dillahunt), about the details of the upcoming job. Even though Bash is not in the loop about the main details, Jatemme kills him anyway. Linda then suggests that her babysitter, Belle (Cynthia Erivo), take Bash's place. Belle's driving skills are among the things that impress Veronica enough, she hires Belle. Alice turns to David (Lukas Haas), a real estate developer she's seeing, to help them interpret Henry's blueprints. He knows enough to know Henry was going to hit something heavily protected. That thing turns out to be a safe in the home of Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), the retiring alderman in Jamal's precinct, who supposedly has stashed $5 million in that safe. Tom's son, Jack (Colin Farrell), would like to keep the position, but runs against Jamal without his father's approval. Belle checks the surveillance around Alderman Mulligan's home for any potential weakness while the others finalize their preparations for their improbable mission.
Widows is based on a 1980s British TV series, and marks director Steve McQueen's first feature since he directed the Oscar winning Best Picture 12 Years A Slave in 2013. He co-wrote this film's adaptation with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, in her first effort for the big screen since the screenplay adaptation of the aforementioned novel. While this work has some entertainment value due to its cast, McQueen delivers soap opera drama instead of powerful drama. They find themselves with woes that are not their doing. The movie might also lead some viewers to believe that a can-do attitude will compensate for complete lack of criminal experience that these ladies have. Also, if Jamal is a man of his word, he should make sure that Jatemme doesn't interfere in any way so that the Mannings' criminal intentions should not be exposed. Other plot twists come into play that involve Harry's last job and Jack Mulligan's run for office. If not for the caliber of talent, Widows would have been a far less interesting film than it turned out to be.
The cast does solid work, but Davis and Erivo are the ones who stand out from the rest of the ensemble. Davis finds the resolve to not let Jamal get the better of her and find her inner partner in crime. For a woman who supposedly doesn't know a thing about her husband's criminal activities, she puts herself and the other widows through learning on the fly with above average skill. Veronica shows she knows how to delegate as she and the others race against time. Erivo, as Belle, shows she, above all others, can indeed race. She can babysit, she can drive, she can find her way in and out of Tom Mulligan's property without detection, and she still finds time to do her full-time job as a hairdresser. Even though she's not a part of the original crew, Belle best exemplifies the kind of confidence in ability Veronica seeks in this robbery.
Widows certainly doesn't paint a pretty picture of Chicago, and might lead some who live in the city to object to the level of violence and corruption anyone could find there. It is, in general, a ridiculous tale that manages to come together in an entertaining fashion. If Harry Rawlings knew the kind of accomplice Veronica could be, I have no doubt he would have wanted her to be a part of his crew. After this brush with Harry's life, I'm sure Veronica would say that one job is more than enough.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Widows three stars. Sisters are doing it for themselves.
© 2018 Pat Mills