Widows (2018)

A heist film that thinks itself THE WIRE, but is much more like more recent HBO dramas, in using a talented cast (mostly) and general high production quality to smooth over scattershot writing.

As a heist movie it goes alright. The pacing is wobbly but the actual heist sequences themselves have striking visuals and are edited very well. As something more expansive, the film struggles. The film doesn’t manage to fold in many of its loftier ambitions well, resorting usually to one-liners referencing sociopolitical points, the same way it does its trashier thriller plot points. Some of those trashier elements work quite well, like certain execution scenes, but there’s tonal whiplash as the film frantically tries to flash between them and its stories of female empowerment, trickling hierarchies of power, etc.

A story just about the titular widows might’ve worked better, but Viola Davis is the only one of them that really inhabits her character with a sense of being lived-in, and most of their runtime goes toward their DIY adventures trying to scrape together a heist. Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry’s election story sat oddly with how trope-laden it was, but was bought to life well visually at points, specifically in a an extended one-take driving sequence showing class divisions drawn across racial lines along such a short area of space in the city. What that shot accomplishes in under a minute the rest of the film struggles to communicate in any meaningful way across two hours. What kind of heist film groans under underdeveloped characters and virtually no ratcheting tension for two hours?

Certainly the themes attempted here are righteous, but the film is so utterly genre that they feel awkwardly lightly-played much of the time. Stray scenes of police brutality and geographic contrast work very well, but they almost feel like stranded scenes at odds with a lazier movie. Two and a half flasks, and a Super Bowl ring.

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