- Colin Fraser
FOUR STARS Veronica Rawlings takes on politicians and gangsters when her husband is killed in a heist.
Viola Davis, Liam Neeson
THRILLER DRAMA #WIDOWS
If anyone was going to make a serious film from a page-turning novel by Lynda La Plante, it was Steve McQueen (12 YEARS A SLAVE). If you’re familiar with the graphic intensity of his art-house sex-thriller SHAME, you have some sense of what he’s capable of. And so with one eye on Oscar and another on the pulpy nature of its source material, WIDOWS arrives as a thoroughly satisfying mix of gut-wrenching character study and gang-land guns-n-violence, all laced with an arid sense of knowing humour (casting Liam Neeson for instance). OCEANS 8 it isn’t.
Four women are widowed when their gangster husband’s are killed in a heist. The men they stole from want their money back, forcing the women into a hostile corner. Not one to be shaken down, Veronica Rawlings (a commanding Viola Davis) has the detailed plans for her late husband’s next job. She gathers the widows and they get to work. After all, who would suspect women?
La Plante’s plotting turns on political deceit (those running for office are in on the action), and she has a couple of surprises up her sleeve for more than one gotcha moment. Yet rather than tread familiar ground, McQueen makes the most of these machinations while continually refocussing our attention on the women’s pain and anguish as they take on a man’s game in a man’s world. In doing so, WIDOWS becomes much more than a heist film while effortlessly grasping the #metoo moment.
It’s slick, of course. McQueen doesn’t loose a frame as his film conjures all manner of emotion from the story’s grim locations to maximise involvement with heightened settings, angles and sound.Yet WIDOWS is not a powerhouse film like SHAME or HUNGER (it’s based on a La Plante novel, right), but for all its obvious commerciality it still stand head and shoulders above its competitors. Rather like Veronica Rawlings herself.