Question, is this supposed to be the “female Expendables” movie that’s been getting toted around for awhile now? Because if it’s not… can it be? The cast ain’t getting much better than this. I mean… yes, it very much could, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a respectable slew of bad-ass women taking center stage.
So, a quick history lesson. This movie is actually based on a 1983 British TV mini series, also called WIDOWS, which ran two seasons, each season six episodes long, and seemed to be a critical success. It was also written by a well-renowned crime novelist, Lynda La Plante. Beyond that, not much else to be said.
The story looks like it’s about a group of women whose husbands get killed during a heist against a big bad crime lord and the wives aim to finish the jobs their husbands had planned next as revenge.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Viola Davis (FENCES ), Michelle Rodriguez (F8 OF THE FURIOUS , RESIDENT EVIL  and RETRIBUTION , AVATAR , and the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ), Elizabeth Debicki (PETER RABBIT , GUARDIANS VOL. 2 , THE MAN FROM UNCLE , and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 ), Brian Tyree Henry (WHITE BOY RICK , CROWN HEIGHTS , and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE  and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK ), and Daniel Kaluuya (BLACK PANTHER , GET OUT , SICARIO , JOHNNY ENGLISH 2 , and the upcoming A CHRISTMAS CAROL ).
In support, we have Colin Farrell (THE BEGUILED , THE LOBSTER , and the upcoming DUMBO ), Liam Neeson (THE COMMUTER , A MONSTER CALLS , SILENCE , TED 2 , THE LEGO MOVIE , Narnia LION, WITCH, AND WARDROBE , PRINCE CASPIAN , and DAWN TREADER , LOVE ACTUALLY , STAR WAR: PHANTOM , and upcoming films COLD PURSUIT  and MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL ), Jon Bernthal (WIND RIVER , THE ACCOUNTANT , ME, EARL, DYING GIRL , and upcoming films VIENA AND THE FANTOMES  and THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON ), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (SICARIO 2 , ORIENT EXPRESS , MAGNIFICENT 7 , and upcoming films PERFECTOS DESCONOCIDOS  and GREYHOUND ), and Robert Duvall (THE ROAD  and OPEN RANGER ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Steve McQueen, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. McQueen’s partner-in-pen is Gillian Flynn, known for GONE GIRL (2014). Composing the score is the living legend himself, Hans Zimmer, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), KUNG FU PANDA 3 (2016), MAN OF STEEL (2013), SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) and A GAME OF SHADOWS (2011), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000), THE LION KING (1994), and upcoming films DARK PHOENIX (2019) and THE LION KING (2019). The cinematographer is Sean Bobbitt, known for ON CHESIL BEACH (2018), STRONGER (2017), QUEEN OF KATWE (2016), and the upcoming THE RHYTHM SECTION (2019). Finally, the editor is Joe Walker, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049, ARRIVAL (2016), and SICARIO.
Overall, this looks like it could be like damn good fun. Some kick-ass woman doing kick-ass shit, you’ve got me interested.
This is my honest opinion of: WIDOWS
Set in Chicago, Illinois. Veronica Rawlings’s (Viola Davis) husband Harry (Liam Neeson), a professional thief, has just recently been killed on a botched job alongside his closest friends Florek (John Bernthal), Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Jimmy (Coburn Goss) in a shootout with the police, resulting in a violent explosion killing them all. Veronica soon discovers that Harry had stolen money from a candidate for President of the Eighteenth Ward; the dangerous Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). He threatens Veronica to get that money back in a month and enlists the help of the other widows that their husbands left, Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), or else Manning and his homicidal brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) will come after them eventually as well, and Veronica’s only plan is the blueprints to Harry’s next jobs.
I hate to disagree with the masses, but I actually didn’t like this as much as everyone else.
I’ll start with the positives. This does give us some really good characters. Veronica is wealthy, but she’s a loving and supportive wife. She’s controlling and occasionally insensitive toward the other widows, and she’s certainly no fighter at first, but as the story progresses, she does get tougher and learns how to play her proverbial cards. Alice was in an abusive marriage and certainly comes off like a ditsy blonde who is more out of her element than any of the widows, being the weakest and most emotionally fragile. We even understand why she doesn’t really stand up for herself because her mother Agnieszka (Jacki Weaver) was quite emotionally abusive as well. Hell, the one scene she’s in, she encourages Alice to become an escort as a means to find a man who is wealthy. Pretty fucked up shit. But we also learn that she’s quite resourceful, can use her sexual appeal to her advantage, is actually quite funny, and is an even better shot than Michelle Rodriguez. That had me rolling with laughter. Putting it out there, Alice is my favorite character of the movie, who had the biggest arc and personal obstacles to contend with and overcome.
Weirdly enough, even the villains get some decent development. Kaluuya as Jatemme is so delightfully sadistic. Like, he catches henchmen slacking off and forces them to rap, but then straight-up kills them in the middle of it. There’s another scene where he confronts a wheelchair-bound man for information, forcing him off, stabbing his legs that the poor guy can’t feel, basically torturing him, and almost having fun about it. Jatemme is so despicable that I absolutely loved watching him on screen. Even Jack is deliciously pathetic. On the one hand, he’s a sleazy, manipulative asshole who doesn’t deserve anything good in his life. But as the story progresses, you see just how weak and pitiful he really is. His father Tom (Robert Duvall) is verbally abusive toward him, insulting his wife in front of him, calling her a “redheaded paperweight,” and is pretty fuckin’ racist. By God, what an asshole. And even when he’s in his fancy car with his wife, even she busts his balls by telling him to man up. Dude, Jack is such a tool and it’s so entertaining to see how he has no idea what he’s doing.
But now it’s time to talk about my problems with the movie.
The first red flag I got was, quite literally, the opening of the movie. For one thing, Neeson and Davis making out was a little gross. This is not an “ew, old people kissing” joke, this is a, “who the fuck besides pre-teen kids kiss like that?” kind of thing. And it’s especially jarring when you have, well, “nice” and quiet scenes, and then all of a sudden, we jump to a loud gunfight, then right back to another quiet and nice scene. Essentially, the editing is horrendous and I feel like the movie would have been fine if the scenes were played out in chronological order. But if that was the worst of my complaints, then this movie would be just as great as everyone’s been saying it is.
The truth is, I think this movie is kind of boring. Yup, I said it and I ain’t taking it back. But it really was to me. This movie clocks in a two hours and nine minutes, but I swear I have an easier time sitting through a Lord of the Rings movie than I did with this. Now, I admit that a part of that is because I made the assumption that this was a more action-oriented flick. A revenge thriller, basically. I had no idea that this was a heist film. Hence, I wasn’t going to get nearly as much gunplay as I would have expected. With that said, in a heist film, the build-up to the eventual execution of the plan has to be an interesting endeavor. While that is sometimes the case, it’s not consistent. There are far too many scenes that felt like they dragged too long, or were downright pointless and didn’t serve the narrative. For example, why was it necessary to have a scene dedicated to seeing Veronica and Harry’s son get murdered? What does this serve? I mean, I have my guesses, but I’ll get to that in a second. The first thing I wanted to say about it was that their son was murdered by a cop over a mistake in intentions. Like, the son was reaching for his phone and a cop freaked out and shot him dead. I wouldn’t have had a problem with his if this plotline hadn’t been done THREE GOD DAMNED TIMES THIS YEAR!!! BLINDSPOTTING, MONSTERS AND MEN, THE HATE U GIVE, I’m so sick of this plot device being used. Look, America, I get it. Cops can be cruel fucking monsters who get away with way too much, simply because they have a badge. This shit happens and it happens far more often than we’re comfortable admitting. But if you’re going to use this as a basis for your movie, you need to be original about it. There is nothing original about this. But now, onward to why I disagree with its function within this story. <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ Their son was murdered, which put a strain on their marriage. In that strain, Harry had an affair with Amanda (Carrie Coon) and ended up fathering a child that neither told their respective spouses the truth about. So… everything these widows went through, stealing from the Mannings, having his friends murdered, faking his own death… all of that was an elaborate stunt to run away with Amanda and the newborn?! That’s… douchie, and not in an engaging way, but rather and unnecessarily insane needlessly complicated way. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
As much as I enjoy most of the characters and actor performances, I have to admit the only widow that suffers from any memorable development is Linda. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michelle Rodriguez. Great actress who is terribly underutilized and underappreciated. With that said, despite giving 100 percent to the role, Linda just wasn’t as strong a character as Veronica or Alice. Veronica was authoritative, her very presence commanding respect. Alice was weaker, but had lots of personality and personal hurdles that she overcame. Linda is a diet version of Alice, in that she’s just an underappreciated housewife. Linda is… the mom. She doesn’t even have that bad of a set-up. After Carlos’ death, she is horribly treated by her mother-in-law, saying that Carlos became a criminal because of her. It’s pretty heartbreaking, but no one wrote anything better for Linda after that. It breaks my heart to say this as I think Rodriguez has been great before and this could have been a great vehicle to showcase her more dramatic side mixed with her trademark badassery. Sadly, that is not the case here.
Even more weird is just how much Harry is referenced as this highly respectable man. But this confused the crap out of me. Why is he so respected. What the hell did Harry do to net to much good will from Jack, and didn’t even Jamal say something nice about Harry? Like, what was Harry other than an exceptional thief? What kind of day job did he have? Did this movie ever explain that? Why would a bureaucrat like Jack have so many positive things to say about Harry? Every time someone said something nice about him, I was completely taken aback.
Can we please be honest and say that Belle (Cynthia Erivo) very nearly became a fluff character? Convince me that you weren’t as confused as I was. Her very first scene is literally just of her with her family. She’s not a widow with a dead husband, she’s just a random-ass character that we’re focusing on… and she’s staggeringly jacked and looks like she could be an Olympic runner, but otherwise, her scene was pure padding. It’s only until later that we learn that she babysits Linda’s kids. Well… shit, that could have been better showcased early on. And don’t get me wrong, I think Erivo is a fine actress, and there are glimpses of Belle being a compelling character. She throws sass at Veronica with the same soul-piercing “no fucks given” eyes, but at the end of the day, Belle is literally just the babysitter that joins up because… fourth character, why not.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ And even the twist didn’t feel like a well-handled twist, that Harry never actually died. The first time the audience is during the second interaction between Veronica and Amanda. Veronica’s dog goes nuts at a closed door… Veronica looks like she’s afraid to open it… and then storms out of the house. It’s very strangely directed. As soon as she leaves, Amanda opens the door and there’s Harry. WHAT A TWIST!!! But then the ending comes around and Harry reveals himself to Veronica and she’s… absolutely flabbergasted? I’m actually very confused. What was that look in Amanda’s house? If were to hazard a guess, she only suspected that Harry was alive, but didn’t actually know. She didn’t open that door in Amanda’s house because she was afraid to know the truth and the implications it came with. This would be fine if her reaction to him being alive in the end was a little more subdued. Like if she only cold-stared him down while shaking, or something. Not overly surprised to see him, but her fears have come true. Instead, it comes off like she had zero idea, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, this movie was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I loved a lot of the characters, and that love really held up the film. Davis, Debicki, Kaluuya, and Farrell were all extremely fun to watch, particularly Debicki and Kaluuya. However, what hurts the film is how uninteresting most of it is. Too many scenes felt unnecessary, the build-up to the eventual heist took too long, it was just too slow-moving for my taste. As a recommendation, I say check it out, but viewer beware. It’s not an action film. You’ll get good performances, don’t get me wrong, but you won’t get a compelling story.
My honest rating for WIDOWS: 3/5
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