SDIFF 2018 ‘Widows’: Capable of anything

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Left with the aftermath and considerable debt of their gangster menfolk, four women with nothing in common conspire together to forge their own future.

So the film begins with the death of Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), and the jolting shock it gives his very black wife, Veronica (Viola Davis). Harry was the leader of the most notorious gang of thieves here in Chicago, with fingers in all kinds of city pies, including race-related political bribery and extortion, and swore the job he died on would be his last final giant score.

The car crash, police shoot-em-up and subsequent explosion all seems a bit staged, but that is a plot point for later consideration in the movie. As it stands right now, Carlos’ (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) girlfriend Linda’s (Michelle Rodriguez) clothing shop has been repossessed to pay for his debts; the battered woman with many names but generally goes by Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) is now getting bad advice from her mother on how to continue making money now that her so-kind husband Florek Gunner (Jon Bernthal) is gone; and when former associates of her husband show up and begin shaking down Veronica for the lost money she now owes them, Veronica decides to take matters into her own hands.

The city is rife with corruption, both from without and within, as the Mulligan family dynasty, mostly consisting of father Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) and son Jack (Colin Farrell), attempt to bulldoze their way by whatever means necessary into winning the election for the city’s eighth district. Strongly opposing them is crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), and his entirely sadistic and murderous brother Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya), who launch the first threat at Veronica demanding the money her Harry promised, and setting the first dominoes to fall.

Yes, it’s a Steve McQueen-directed movie. And yes, it is a heist movie too. But for all that, the film is also an astonishing portrait of the strength and desperation of women, bereft of their beloved menfolk and determined to trudge on in those working heels. Overflowing with love and betrayal, death and an astonishing wealth of great secrets, Widows is a powerhouse of celebrated actors, sympathetic and emotional storytelling, and yet still an action-packed romp of a hijacking movie too.

Check the coffin for stolen cash and adjust your veil to go see Widows in theaters!