Review: Heist thriller Widows is electric and unnerving

Oscar winner Steve McQueen's star-studded film marries a familiar genre story with artful touches

WIDOWS (Steve McQueen). 128 minutes. Opens Friday (November 16). See listing. Rating: NNNN

After blowing out the Oscars with 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen’s first American studio thriller transposes Lynda La Plante’s 30-year-old BBC series to present-day Chicago, and delivers on pretty much every level.

Like Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Widows is a propulsive, artful genre film that finds something electric and unnerving in familiar material, elevating every moment with perfectly considered casting and a willingness to find unconventional choices and run with them.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki are the eponymous widows, who band together to pull off the heist that would have been their husbands’ next job. This would be slightly easier if they had any idea how to do this – all three of them have been insulated from their partners’ criminal activities – and if there wasn’t the ticking clock of a mob debt hanging over their heads. But they’re nothing if not adaptable, even when forces both external and internal throw up unexpected roadblocks.

An all-star cast fills out the supporting roles – Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell as father-son politicians, Brian Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya as sibling gangsters, Liam Neeson, Carrie Coon, Garret Dillahunt, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Bernthal, Jacki Weaver – and McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) never treat any of them as furniture, even when the movie tips into its biggest set pieces.

There’s even a little social commentary thrown in there, because… well, that’s what McQueen does. He can’t not.


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