‘Widows’ is a fascinating film that taps into the theme of women’s empowerment, which is a trendy topic in Hollywood now that the ‘Me Too’ movement has hit the movie industry like a bombshell.
The trend is manifest in films like Oceans 8 and The Wife, which has been winning big time during this film awards season, as well as in super-hero flicks like Wonder Woman and Black Panther where Lupita Nyong’o champions the theme with ferocious passion.
Widows is billed as a thriller, but it’s so much more. Set in Chicago, a city notorious for criminal gangs, violence, politics, corruption, and racism, all of those ingredients are in the film.
But as its director and screenwriter is Steve McQueen (who brilliantly directed 12 Years a Slave, it’s also about race and class. It’s also a love story that boomerangs to become a core complication in the movie.
The cast of Widows is stellar. Viola Davis (as Veronica) is married to Liam Neeson (who plays Harry).
But the gang element features largely in the film as Vero leads a band of widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) who previously had nothing in common except that they all lost husbands in the same heist.
Colin Farrell plays a politician from a corrupt city dynasty headed by Robert Duvall who expects his son to win a top seat in local government.
But the son’s up against Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry), a vicious black gang leader who also wants to win ‘by any means necessary’ and threatens Veronica if she doesn’t pay up on her dead husband’s multimillion dollar debt.
Vero rapidly discovers who she’d been married to, a criminal thug whose true identity remains shrouded until the end of the film.
Seeing no way out but to deal with Harry’s debt or die, she decides to rob a bank and enlist the other criminals’ widows in the heist.
As always, Davis can play the toughest hard-core mama as well as she can the sweetest, most tender lover.
She does both in Widows. But her main task in the film — apart from strategically planning the robbery after obtained Harry’s black book of heist blueprints — is convincing the other widows that ‘yes, they can’ pull it off.
Her other problem is finding a driver whom she can trust since hers is butchered by Jamal’s gang as a lesson to Vero of what’ll happen to her if she doesn’t pay up.
This is when the Latina widow suggests her athletic babysitter (Cynthia Erivo) to do the job. Their gang is an odd combination but Vero’s as badassed as any Army General.
Neeson has received bad press of late for his racist remarks related to his public confession that he sought revenge for a dear friend’s rape by a black man.
But when you see the tenderness of the love scenes between him and Viola, and hear his contrition for the remark, I still say, see the film. The acting is brilliant.