By Robert Moyes
Monday Magazine reviewer
Hollywood has made many a heist film over the years, but few have been as intriguing as the Chicago-based Widows, where a robbery gone wrong leads into a twisty tale exploring issues of race, gender, and corruption in contemporary America.
The movie opens on four career criminals as a job goes spectacularly, fatally awry. Harry (Liam Neeson) was the gang’s leader and he leaves behind a grieving widow, Veronica (Viola Davis, Doubt, The Help), who unexpectedly gets visited by a ruthless black gangster. Turns out that Harry and his men were stealing $2 million from some very bad dudes and since that loot was incinerated during the fiery police takedown, Veronica is given one month to pay it back … or else.
Rattled but gutsy, Veronica arranges a meeting with her three fellow widows to confront their plight. In possession of a notebook with elaborate plans for what would have been Harry’s next job, Veronica dangles a $5-million payday in front of the reluctant, law-abiding trio as she struggles to persuade them to pull on balaclavas and do some high-stakes heisting of their own.
As these women shop for a getaway van and practise their shooting at a gun range, another subplot slowly unfolds involving a suave, deeply corrupt politician named Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). It’s the middle of an election campaign and Jack hopes to retain the seat that his father (Robert Duvall, in a marvelously cantankerous performance) has occupied for decades.
This is a cynical family dynasty that has gotten filthy rich while going through the motions of representing a poor black neighbourhood. And thanks to recent scandals, Jack finds himself in a real election fight as some local – but equally corrupt – black representatives position themselves as saviours of this passed-over community. And as the film’s two storylines gradually converge, a dozen characters find themselves driven to extremes by greed and desperation.
Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen is best known for 12 Years a Slave, but his serious-minded filmography has also addressed the murderous politics of Northern Ireland (Hunger) and the dark obsessions of a sex addict (Shame). Not surprisingly, this uncompromising artist uses the mechanics of an action flick not merely to provide thrills but also to paint a disturbing picture of violence and amorality. Even though ambitious Widows has been more popular with critics than a general audience, anyone interested in great acting and thoughtful filmmaking should check this one out.
Stars Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell
Directed by Steve McQueen
OTHERS TO CHECK OUT:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The ever-delightful Coen Brothers return to the Wild West with this anthology sextet of short tales ranging from James Franco as a wannabe bank robber to Zoe Kazan leading a wagon train across the prairies. Giddy-up!
Great Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) delivers a mostly-autobiographical epic set in 1970s Mexico City. Filmed in black and white.
Christian Bale plays perfidious American vice president Dick Cheney in a star-studded biopic that will have political buffs salivating. With Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, and Bill Pullman.
Holmes & Watson
Although there is no shortage of cinematic and TV versions of these iconic Victorian-era crime fighters, who wouldn’t want to see a spoofy version powered by the droll antics of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly?
DC Comics unleashes its trident-toting underwater superhero (Jason Momoa) in an action spectacular where our entire planet is in peril. With Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, and Nicole Kidman.