Lynda La Plante originally wrote ows as a six-part series for British television in 1983. The thriller about the widows of three robbers was so successful that it spawned two subsequent series, Widows 2 (1985) and She’s Out (1995). Now the original material has been transposed to the US — albeit by a British director — in a large-scale cinema version that has to be one of the year’s most satisfying thrillers.
On the surface Widows may seem a curious assignment for Steve McQueen, who became the first black director to win an Oscar for best film ( 12 Years a Slave, 2013), after gaining critical success with his first two films, Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011). But McQueen, who collaborated with crime writer Gillian Flynn on the screenplay, is clearly very much at home in telling this genuinely suspenseful tale of women who, when faced with unexpected tragedy, take matters into their own hands.
Veronica Rawlins (Viola Davis) is left a widow when the daring armed robbery carried out by her husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), and three confederates ends in an explosive showdown with the Chicago police. Soon after these tragic events, Veronica receives a visit from the formidable Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) who claims that the stolen money — which was destroyed in the conflagration — belonged to him and that he wants it back.
Manning has a brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya, a world away from his character in Get Out), who works as his enforcer, and who is even scarier than he is. When Veronica acquires a notebook kept by Harry in which he recorded past and proposed robberies, she recruits the widows of his confederates — Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) to help her carry out one of these heists. The target just happens to be the stash of cash kept in his home by corrupt politician Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) whose son, Jack (Colin Farrell), is running for local office against Jamal.
The busy plot, containing some tasty twists and surprises, is cleverly handled by McQueen, who creates a real sense of menace and threats towards the female characters at the hands of some very unpleasant men. Fortunately these women are only too able to take care of them- Widows (MA15+) National release The Children Act (M) National release Strange Colours (MA15+) Limited release Strange Colours; Emma Thompson in The Children Act, below
Elizabeth Debicki in Widows; Daniel P. Jones and Kate Cheel, right, in