The problem with heist films made by top-tier directors is that they sometimes end up being not the most exciting of heist films. Widows comes from excellent director Steve McQueen, whose worst movie is, arguably, Best Picture-winner 12 Years a Slave. Widows is superbly crafted and features a terrific performance by Viola Davis, who allegedly has a reputation for delivering terrific performances.
Widows is also a heist movie you probably won’t watch over and over again.
I know I’m projecting my feelings onto you by saying “you” instead of “I,” but this is my review and I can do what I want.
Critics and cinephiles will point to the fact that Widows is so much more than a heist film. It’s a powerful drama that deals with loss, grief, and seizing your independence, and presumably other themes that other, smarter writers will latch onto and have undoubtedly already written about in other publications that are almost as cool as FilmJabber. It also has a feminist bent, because it’s about three women who largely relied on their husbands—who get killed in the film’s first minutes doing bad things—and now must fend for themselves by executing a daring heist of their own.
That’s all fine and good, and McQueen does a great job of crafting a story—co-written by Gillian “When Will You Write Another Novel Because I Love Your Novels Except for the Ending of Gone Girl” Flynn, mind you—and creating a gritty world where all of these themes can be explored. The characters are compelling, each with unique, fascinating arcs of their own that flex and intertwine through what otherwise is a pretty routine if not downright forgettable crime story—and the performances, not just by Davis but by Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as well, are visceral.
But it’s a whole lot of stuff that leads to a third act that is, well, just okay. The heist itself is pretty unremarkable. McQueen gets so caught up with everything else in his movie that the heist itself feels like an afterthought, a well-executed but essentially unimaginative crime. Heat, this is not. As believable as the characters are, it’s also equally unbelievable that these three individuals could pull off what they end up doing.
A big twist also comes off as underplayed.
Widows has a lot going for it, and is certainly worth seeing. Another great performance by Viola Davis and an equally disturbing turn by Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), coupled with finely tuned writing and directing, means that Widows is, by definition, a good movie. But McQueen and Flynn gloss over some of the basics that most fans of heist fans are looking for, and Widows suffers as a result.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.