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A visual artist whose movies have dealt with starvation, sex addiction, and slavery, Steve McQueen has never been considered a safe commercial bet. That just makes “Widows,” his bracing, moody heist thriller about women who finish the robbery their husbands started, all the more satisfying: McQueen has made a first-rate genre exercise that doubles as a treatise on race and gender, juggling dramatic payoff with heavier themes. “Widows” embraces its trashy, melodramatic twists while deepening their potential. If all escapism looked like this, America would be smart again.
With an aesthetic that merges the blithe energy of “Ocean’s Eight” with the griminess of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” McQueen adapts the ‘80s British TV series into a gritty Chicago crime saga, weaving a handful of characters into a web of corruption that threatens them all. In a dynamic opening sequence, several robbers lead by the fast-talking Harry (Liam Neeson) speed through the city with the police on their tail; the chase ends at a garage, with bloody gunfire and an abrupt explosion that leaves all of their wives grieving. McQueen’s swift visual style takes hold early on, as he cuts from the fiery death scene to the somber image of Harry’s wife Veronica (Viola Davis) mournfully gazing at the empty side of her bed.
Widows - Davis - Character - Husband - Shoes
“Widows” largely belongs to Davis, whose character steps into her husband’s shoes when every other option runs out. The actress has never been more commanding: Veronica’s a stern, driven woman, but even she’s unprepared when local criminal Jamal (Bryan Tyree Henry) bursts into her palatial apartment one night demanding the money that her husband stole from him. He gives her a couple of weeks to deliver, and she finds a potential solution in one of husband’s old notebooks — details about a robbery the men never completed....
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