Widows follows a group of women whose criminal husbands are killed in a police shootout after a heist. As their deceased spouses ill-gotten financial gains are reclaimed they are left with nothing. With the prospect of being hunted down by the criminal underworld, they conspire to pull off a heist of their own to repay their debtors and start their lives anew.
Steve McQueen has quickly earned a reputation as a director who’s able to craft excellent films from difficult issues with Shame, Hunger and 12 Years a Slave. Here he directs an altogether more conventional crime thriller, but shows the same flair for directing action as he has for drama.
While this may be a new type of film for McQueen, he once again demonstrates a commitment to giving a voice to underrepresented groups. Here the silent ‘Mafia wife’ is turned into the main protagonist, as crime is shown to breed crime. Viola Davis is superb as chief widow Veronica and is ably supported in her mission by Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as the trio who are abruptly shaken out of their naivety.
McQueen also maintains his political streak, with the heist taking place against the backdrop of a local election campaign, where a dynasty politician (Colin Farrell) faces an unexpected challenge from an insurgent candidate with mob ties (Brian Tyree Henry). Both candidates face corruption charges and are motivated more by self interest than community spirit, all the while maintaining the illusion of respectability and democracy.
The intelligent script, penned by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), manages occasional moments of humour, and is complex enough to be worth a re-watch. This is a smart and serious thriller, which is engaging from beginning to end thanks to its compelling, character-led story.