WIDOWS,   US, 2018.  Starring Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Robert Duval, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, John Bernthal, Garrett Delahunt, Lukas Haas. Directed by Steve McQueen.  129 minutes.  Rated MA (Strong violence, sex scene and coarse language)

This is a film for those who enjoy a complex drama but, especially, for those who are fans of crime novels and films, detectives, investigations, betrayals…

The screenplay has been adapted by the director, Steve McQueen, from Lynda La Plante’s story, adapted for British television in the 1990s. While McQueen is a celebrated British director (with quite a wide range from the Irish Troubles drama, Hunger, to the exploration of male sexuality, Shameless, to his Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave), he has transferred the action to Chicago.

In many ways, this is a very ugly Chicago. After a very intimate scene between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson (which has quite some dramatic repercussions throughout the film), there is a dramatically staged heist and chase, ending disastrously with the deaths of the thieves. The widows of the title are those of the men killed in the ill-fated chase and explosion. The leader of the gang from the robbery is Harry, played by Liam Neeson. His widow is a tough woman, Veronica, Ronnie, played by Viola Davis, expert in her variety of roles in film and on television. There is also Linda, Michelle Rodriguez, a great opportunity for her and versatility in comparison with her continued presence in the Fast and Furious franchise. The other widow is Alice, from a Polish background, played by Elizabeth Debicki, also a very versatile actress (The Great Gatsby, The Night Manager, Breath) – with a nice touch of casting with Jacki Weaver playing her mother.

So, those are the widows and how they became widows.

But, there is quite some political and political corruption in the foreground. Two American- African brothers are working towards nomination and election in the local ward. They have a great deal to do with the money that was robbed. And, one of the brothers, Daniel Kaluuya (also versatile when we think of Get Out and Black Panther) is a brutal and callous thug, not shrinking from any violence.

On the other hand, there is a long-time boss, Tom Mulligan (Irish tone) who is played by 86-year-old Robert Duvall, also versatile over a very long career, playing a man who knows he is boss, and he dominates his son, Colin Farrell (versatile actor again) wanting to prolong the dynasty.

It is very clear from the trailer that the women are going to join together to steal back the heist cash. In the latter part of the film, we see more of the characters, Ronnie dominating them, Linda and Alice having to do deals to get vans, buy guns, the women and their target practice. But, they need a driver – and she comes in the form of Linda’s babysitter, Belle, played by Cynthia Erevo (an award-winning singer who made such an impression in Bad Times at El Royale).

There is quite a twist towards the end of the film which gives the action a great deal of further energy. And, the re-take robbery does not go entirely as planned.

As has been said, those who like the genre conventions should find this thriller very entertaining, backed by sharp writing and plotting and that excellent cast.

Fox         Released November 22nd

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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