Widows: Overstuffed Heist Film Has Decent Action, Not Much Else

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

Widows Poster
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Widows has all the ingredients for a fun and thought-provoking heist movie.  A solid cast, talented writer (Gillian Flynn, of Gone Girl) and director (Steve McQueen, of 12 Years a Slave), and some decent action.  However, Widows fails as both fun heist film and thoughtful commentary due to bad editing, clunky dialogue, and undercooked characters and story ideas.  And yet, it has received Oscar buzz.  I don’t know what film the other critics saw, but I found Widows a slow, tonally inconsistent, and largely uninvolving movie with fleeting moments of dark humor that would have been appreciated more frequently.

Following the death of her criminal husband Harry (Liam Neeson), Veronica Rawlins (an unengaging Viola Davis) is threatened by gangster-turned-politician Jamal Manning (A good Brian Tyree Henry) to complete the heist job Harry and his friends were supposed to before their untimely deaths.  Fearful but strong, Ronnie enlists the help of their widows, Linda (an underused Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) to pull it off.  Meanwhile, Manning and opposing candidate Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) vie for the hearts (and votes) of their Chicago neighborhood through increasingly shady tactics that would make a much more engrossing movie on its own.

Widows is not going to make my list of the worst of the year.  The acting is passable for the most part, the few action scenes enjoyable, and the story just interesting enough to make you see where it goes.  However, Viola Davis seems unenthused, the characters are barely developed, and much of the dialogue and themes are poorly handled.  Colin Farrell does well as Mulligan, Daniel Kaluuya is fun as another gangster, and Robert Duvall adds some (unintended) comedy as Farrell’s cartoonishly racist father.  Unfortunately, the moments of dark humor clash with the more realistic tone the film mostly goes for and only made me wish it would just go goofy all the way.  There’s also a jarringly unrealistic police shooting in the film that took my audience by surprise in the wrong way and should have been left out.  While I can admire Widows for its higher ambitions in theory, in practice, the film bites off far more than it can chew.  Skip it.

Rated R for Violence, Language Throughout, and Some (awkwardly placed) Sexual Content/Nudity


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