This is a complicated drama dominated by extraordinary performances by a handful of talented actresses. The film could have been subtitled, Band of Sisters.
Widows is a complex film within a film that involves surprises that no reviewer dares give away. Directed by Steve McQueen, who previously brought us the memorable Twelve Years a Slave (2013) and co-written with Gillian Flynn (remember Gone Girl?), it leaves you embroiled in a Chicago election battle as four widows fight to keep from suffering the same fate as their late husbands.
It is giving nothing away to say that the four above-referred to husbands are quickly wiped out at the beginning of the film as they attempted to steal $2 million. The leader of our deceased gang was played by Liam Neeson, and this is one of his best performances following a long series of forgettable movies.
Neeson’s wife Veronica is played by Viola Davis, the leader of a local union who is in agony over losing a husband that she dearly loved. However, her emotional distress is overwhelmed when one of the candidates for a local office, Jamaal Manning (played by Brian Tyree Henry), demands the return of the $2 million her late husband stole from him or she will be violently killed.
In the process, you watch the local political campaign evolve into a battle between Manning and Jack Mulligan, a caustic young candidate played by Colin Farrell. Farrell’s Mulligan is stepping into the shoes of his racist father (another great performance from Robert Duvall) who has long held the office. In the process, Ms. Davis concocts a scheme to steal some money to save her own life.
As Ms. Davis plans a robbery, she involves three of the four widows of the dead crooks who died with her husband. While Ms. Davis is as good here as she was in her Oscar-winning performance in Fences (2016), Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriquez are startlingly powerful playing Alice and Linda, two women who know when it is time to get down and dirty. Wait until you see the scene where they meet in a sauna to hatch their robbery plan and are subsequently forced to buy guns and learn how to shoot accurately.
Let me also mention two other roles that tie you to this cinematic magnet as if you and your colleagues are transformed into a rusty nail. Cynthia Erivo gives a fascinating turn as Belle, a hairdresser that joins the gang as the driver of their getaway car. Once you watch her performance, you will also want to hunt down her role in the recent Bad Times at the El Royale. Finally, Daniel Kaluuya is devastatingly powerful as a hit man working for Mr. Manning and he is one of the most violent thugs to hit the big screen in quite some time. While he was great in Get Out (2017), his character in Widows views torture and killing as a moral obligation.
In closing, director McQueen adds an interesting twist to this film by having Ms. Davis constantly carry her pet dog to almost every location. Let me assure you that nothing violent ever occurs to this fluffy little white hound, and this cute spud basically serves as McQueen’s ice cream on his cinematic cake.