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Review: Heist thriller 'Widows' defies genre standards

Courtesy of Fox 


Steve McQueen has assembled quite the entourage of talent for his latest passion project: “Widows.” Following up his catalog of either historical pieces or depressed romanticism,  McQueen (director of “12 Years a Slave” and “Shame”) stuffs his harrowing saga with enough bacon bits to cook 50 entrees. Eventually throwing so much at the wall, you’re just left to admire what he’s trying to accomplish.

Equal parts political, bare knuckled and packed with big ideas, the director follows up his 2013 best picture winner with a story centered around Veronica (Viola Davis - can she do no wrong?) - a former teachers union rep still keeping the spice in her marriage to one fella (Liam Neeson) who may or may not be a criminal mastermind. Within minutes, he and his crew are killed on a job gone wrong, and the surviving spouses are forced with the burden of debts unpaid to a local kingpin Jamal Manning (a pitch perfect Brian Tyree Henry) and his menacing brother Jatemme (“Get Out’s” Daniel Kaluya).

While Veronica is busy plotting the heist to save her life, she’s tasked with forging new alliances with a single mother (Michelle Rodriguez), her babysitter (Cynthia Erivo), an emotionally charged call girl (Elizabeth Debicki) and turning them into the next “Oceans 8” wannabees.

This all taking place concurrently with subplots about the Mannings and a Chicago family patriarchy whose corrupted fingerprints are seen all over the town. Robert DuVall and Colin Farrell are given plenty to chew on as the father/son duo trying to keep their family name in politics.

It’s not quite as focused compared to McQueen’s previous outlets, but “Widows” provides terrific popcorn entertainment. An exhilarating effort in showcasing strong females stepping into roles that would normally be reserved for the bulky men. McQueen is juggling every topical reference in the book: from racism to sexism (his social commentary is profound). In the process, he creates a tightly wound thriller which defies genre norms, and puts a spin on a formula utilized frequently. Reminding audiences that we must embrace these scarcely made character driven pictures when given to us.

Grade: B+

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