[Screen It]


(2018) (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez) (R)

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Drama: Several widows band together to try to pull off a heist to pay off their late husbands' $2 million debt to a dangerous criminal.
Unbeknownst to Veronica Rawlings (VIOLA DAVIS), Linda Perelli (MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ), Alice Gunner (ELIZABETH DEBICKI) and Amanda Nunn (CARRIE COON), their spouses -- led by Veronica's husband, Harry (LIAM NEESON) -- have stolen $2 million from Jamal Manning (BRIAN TYREE HENRY). He's a dangerous Chicago criminal who wants to go straight and is running for a local alderman seat against the incumbent, Jack Mulligan (COLIN FARRELL), whose family -- including his father, Tom (ROBERT DUVALL) -- has held that elected position for decades.

The complicating factor is that the four men died during an altercation with the local police that also resulted in the destruction of the stolen money. Jamal -- who orders his far more volatile brother, Jatemme (DANIEL KALUUYA), not to kill anyone -- gives Veronica one month to repay the money. Things seem to look up when Harry's driver, Bash (GARRET DILLAHUNT), gives Veronica a safety deposit key that results in her being in possession of her late husband's plans for a $5 million heist.

Veronica manages to convince Linda and Alice to join her, but with Dash now out of the picture, they turn to Linda's babysitter, Belle (CYNTHIA ERIVO), to serve as their getaway driver. As they plot out their way to pull off the heist, they must contend with Jatemme nosing around, all while Jack does what he can to ensure he defeats his new political opponent.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
I'm certainly no criminologist, but I doubt I'd be traveling too far out on a limb to state that both historically and currently men commit far greater numbers of crimes than women do. Thus, and for other unrelated reasons such as sexism in the moviemaking industry, movies that involve criminals more often than not are going to feature male characters.

Of course, and coming at this from a male perspective, I have no idea if female audiences want to watch movies about their gender counterparts being criminals. That is, unless it's a fun and entertaining crime caper sort of flick, such as this past summer's "Ocean's Eight" that featured an A-list cast of leading ladies and grossed nearly $140 million from domestic coffers.

Straight-up related dramas are likely a harder sell and thus it will be interesting to see how "Widows" performs less than half a year after Sandra Bullock and her pals tried to pull off a jewelry heist. While that revolved around a crime of opportunity, the plot in writer/director Steve McQueen's latest offering stems from necessity.

As the title would suggest, our small group of ladies suddenly find themselves widowed when their husbands die during a robbery gone terribly wrong (in a sequence that's intercut with shots of life at home, both good and bad). And it's not just that they need the money now for daily living and this course of action seems the best choice to pay the bills. Instead, it's that their spouses robbed the wrong guy of $2 million and that dangerous crime boss wants that debt repaid. In one month.

So, our leading lady, Veronica (Viola Davis), armed with a notebook featuring plans for a heist her late husband (Liam Neeson) was going to pull off, approaches the widows of the rest of her husband's criminal team. While they recognize the danger should they fail, both Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), do need the money, what with the former's shop being closed down by the bad guys and the latter having resorted to being a paid escort for a rich guy.

Making things a bit more interesting is that the criminal (Brian Tyree Henry) isn't your typical street thug and instead is trying to go straight by entering the political arena. His somewhat psychotic brother/enforcer (Daniel Kaluuya) isn't crazy about the idea, but Jamal believes he has a shot at unseating the incumbent (Colin Farrell) whose family has held that alderman seat for decades including back when Jack's father (Robert Duvall) was in power.

To go any deeper into the plot would give away some surprises and twists that I have to admit I didn't see coming as things played out during the flick's 130-some minute runtime. During all of that McQueen and co-scribe Gillian Flynn (writer of "Gone Girl') stuff in all sorts of thematic material including, but not limited to, racism, infidelity, loss (on several fronts) and even a police shooting of a young African-American male driver (thus joining a number of other films covering the same, although here it's a flashback scene and not the main gist of the story).

It's all stylishly done (including with some artsy flashbacks featuring Davis and Neeson), the performances and good (especially Davis), and the story and its characters are engaging enough that you might just be captivated from start to finish. It may be a crime that more crime movies don't feature ladies as the leads, but "Widows" proves it can be done, even when it's nowhere near an Ocean. The film rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 7, 2018 / Posted November 16, 2018

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