Review: Widows (San Diego Film Festival)

Title: Widows
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 minutes
What It Is: Four women lose their husbands in a money heist gone wrong. While trying to cope with the loss of their husbands, the corrupt victim of the heist reaches out to inform the women that they are not responsible for their husband’s mistake. Forced to forge an alliance out of fear, the women conspire to finish their husbands legacy with one last, large heist.

What We Think: Viola Davis takes center stage as Veronica, the bereaved widow of thief boss Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson). Her emotional range allows us to believe that such a woman could live in unexplained luxury and never question the source of her husband’s income. She commands the screen as she tends too, but some part of me can’t help wishing she was more a take no prisoners bitch. The male leads are ruthless in their search for power, from legacy politician Jack Mulligan’s (Colin Farrell) blatant misuse of his status to Jamal Manning’s (Brian Tyree Henry) no holds barred power grab. Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) may hold the record for most cringe-worthy scenes outside of a horror film, with spots leaving the audience visibly uneasy in their seats. The movie itself holds your attention firmly up to its audible gasp moment, where I reiterated my thought that Veronica needed less firm handling and more claws.

Our Grade: B, The film is intense, in every way a thriller should be, but the best scenes went to the secondary players. The female leads had every opportunity to become the killer ladies they seemed destined for, abused, lied to, left holding the bag. Yet the film never truly allowed them to be as incredible as I had hoped to be in the same position. Viola Davis played her part with heart, but maybe a bit more edge would have left us standing in our seats. Michelle Rodriguez (Linda) as a lesser action heroine just seemed out of place. Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) was the most convincing and seemingly the most changed at the end of the film, but it didn’t feel like enough.

The film was great, well written and well filmed. If only the female heroines lived up to the anger the audience felt for them.

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