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Widows

Year: 2018
Production Co: Regency Enterprises
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: Gillian Flynn/Steve McQueen/Lynda La Plante
Cast: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Bryan Tyree Henry, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Daniel Kaluuya, Kevin J O'Connor, Lukas Haas

When a crew of professional robbers are killed during a heist that goes wrong, the powers that be they worked for wants the money they were promised, so it's up to the widows of the dead thieves to plan and execute a heist to rip off enough loot from the home of a local politician to pay the debt back.

Depending on the director behind it, you can imagine so many different renditions of this story, from a white knuckle thrill ride full of ex models in black leather to a grimy crime noir. In the hands of renowned dramatic director Steve McQueen it strangely fails to live up to any promise no matter what path it seems to be taking – and it goes down a lot of paths. It ends up very overcooked, with no real identity and with a story so buried beneath layers of subplots and subtexts it's almost completely missing.

Front and centre (though you wouldn't know it from the time and attention allocated to it) is the girls (Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo) holed up in their dead husbands' stronghold planning the hit.

Over here is the story of a career politician (Colin Farrell) born into the trade thanks to his brutally dictatorial father (Robert Duvall) and who hates his life and can't find a way out. Over there is his hardscrabble, streetwise opponent in the upcoming election (Bryan Tyree Henry), a man who at first seems to have honest intentions of changing the status quo but who proves himself to be nothing but a street thug, particularly thanks to his association with his bloodthirsty enforcer (Daniel Kaluuya).

Throw in a bigamy twist, the various womens' relationships with their former partners and their own domestic challenges and struggles and it all feels much bigger and more ponderous than it needs to be, with a two hour-plus running time that doesn't help. When done well, making your audience wonder what genre you're working in is a great way to keep them on their toes. Here, everything is just chucked unceremoniously in together, each element with a different tone because they're all from different genres and subgenres.

McQueen might have suffered a similar fate to Darren Aronofsky in Noah – a great director of small, personal drama given too much money for a bigger canvas but without the skill to keep it all in one coherent piece.

Even the directorial flourishes stand out for all the wrong reasons. There's a single shot of Farrell and his campaign manager (and apparent lover) arguing during a car ride where the camera drifts across the bonnet showing us only highly reflective sides of the windshield, but it doesn't feel organic to the story, just like McQueen wanted a 'director-y' moment somewhere and couldn't find anywhere better for it.

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