screenplay by Gillian Flynn & Steve McQueen, based on the novel by Lynda LaPlante
directed by Steve McQueen
by Bill Chambers Sorry, Psycho. Killing off one movie star halfway through isn't cool. You know what's cool? Killing off three movie stars in the first five minutes. Widows casts Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as the husbands, and while the title would seem to give away that they aren't long for this film's world, watching established leading men bite it so soon still creates an undeniable moment of cognitive dissonance. It's thrilling to see co-writer/director Steve McQueen use his cachet to these subversive ends, not to mention apply his formal sophistication to the crime movie. Which isn't to say he elevates it (we're talking about a genre that counts Anthony Mann and Jean-Pierre Melville among its pioneers)--more that Widows offers respite from a glut of John Wick wannabes and Neeson's own assembly-line thrillers. So, Widows. Viola Davis plays the rich one, Veronica. She lives in a swank condo overlooking Chicago that seems to have taken on the icy gleam of the bachelor pad from McQueen's Shame in the absence of Neeson's Harry, an idealized vision of whom haunts Veronica's imagination. (These scenes play like the distaff version of Neeson's The Grey.) Harry's partners were not as well off, and their wives, Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), need money desperately enough that Alice's own mother (Jacki Weaver, perhaps inevitably) tells her to become a paid escort. Harry, it turns out, owed money to a crime lord, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who's now running for city council against golden child Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell). Manning wants Veronica to pay up, so she commits to robbing Mulligan and thus finishing what Harry started, enlisting Linda and Alice as her partners. None of them are career criminals, yet Veronica figures that if she can tailor the heist to their individual strengths, they just might pull it off.