Widows is the latest film directed by Steve McQueen, the same director of Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 years a slave (2013). I went to the cinema with great expectations, also because of the cast which includes, among others, Cynthia Erivo (immensely good in Bad times at El Royale), Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya (the protagonist of Get out) and Robert Duvall! And as it happened to me already a few times lately (for example this time here)… I came out of the movie theater quite disappointed. Why? I’ll explain below, as usual avoiding spoilers.
The premise of this film is very simple: things go very bad for some criminals during a robbery. Surrounded by the police, during the inevitable shooting they all die in a spectacular explosion. The wives of the four criminals are now widows and, for reasons that I don’t want to spoil here, they must repay their husbands’ debt of some millions of dollars to another criminal. What will they do? Luckily, or not, Viola Davis, the ex-wife of the tender Liam Neeson, finds the notebook of the latter with which even a child would be able to complete a planned robbery to steal five million dollars. It will be enough to bring the widows together and do it, what can go wrong?
Given the premise, I admit, I would have imagined a very different film. In my mind, this was a sort of Ocean’s eleven à la McQueen, and it intrigued me a lot. Unfortunately, I fear that McQueen tried to do a little too much in a single movie. There are at least three films within this Widows: none of them convinced me fully and two would have been enough already.
The first of the three stories is that of the widows entering the world of crime and showing that they can be as good (bad!) as their deceased husbands. This plot is developed in a very unsatisfactory way. There is never the feeling of the three/four widows being part of a working group. The old trick of incompatible personalities who are a perfect team has been used to death by Hollywood and often with excellent results (see, for example, 48 Hrs. by Walter Hill and Lethal weapon by Richard Donner), but Widows doesn’t get there. And most importantly, for a film that builds on the perfect robbery all its tension… the robbery is mediocre. That moment for me was absolutely anti-climatic, absolutely devoid of tension and emotions.
The second story told by McQueen is about corruption in the world of Chicago politics. And half movie is devoted to this, with an electoral campaign going on of which we follow the two opposite candidates in great detail. And frankly this part of the film isn’t that interesting, and it dampens the rhythm of the part that, at least on paper, was more interesting, namely the story of the criminal widows. We’ve seen corrupt politicians before, and those of this movie are not particularly memorable.
Finally, the third main theme of the film is that of the widows trying to survive after such a tragic loss. Each one does it in his own way, some with more success than others, but the time dedicated to this part of the story is so skimpy that none of the stories told manages to be particularly profound. Maybe if there were not so many other things in this movie, this part would have resulted more powerful, but as it stands… no, it doesn’t convince.
I have the feeling that Widows is overcrowded. There are too many actors, too many faces, too many stories… and yes, everything is connected with everything else, but nothing is interesting enough. The plot twist that I won’t reveal doesn’t lead to much, and even the ending is nothing shocking. So it’s a well done film, in which McQueen can also deal with the issue of police racism (as if there were not enough themes to this film!), but I think that it fails in its intent. The movie barely manages to maintain the attention of the audience until the end. Ciao!
PS: Perhaps a lesson to be learned is that Hollywood should be more careful in giving green light to directors who want to make movies based on dated series of which they were fans when they were kids. Maybe the Widows series (which aired from 1983 to 1985) was a masterpiece, I really don’t know it… but judging from the film that was inspired by it, I would tend to say that it wasn’t!