Premise: Widows of criminals must pay off their dead spouses' debt.
Delivery: Ah Peckhamplex, only £4.99 a ticket, but you have to put up with idiots who gasp like morons witnessing their first magic trick, gesticulate wildly and eat through the film. If only the cinemas could all be empty when I go. Yes, you guessed it, this is going to be a crotchety review.
Widows, a film so black and white it is quite literally black and white. The plot is a race against time, as the widows of criminals killed on the job try to pay off the debt passed onto them. Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) does this, sadly, with such increasingly obvious, telegraphed plot points that the film was hard to enjoy. It was predictable, despite trying incredibly hard to throw you of the scent. When you know a film is going to zig-zag, once it's zigged, you know the zag is coming: the clues were obvious. Every. Frigging. Time.
It all began so began well, with an enticing premise, eased into with class. However Widows took that good idea and ran way too far with it. The killing off of the titular Widows' famous husbands (Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal et al.) very quickly was an excellent, clever casting device. However, it turns out that like the rest of the film, given you knew the husbands' fate based on the very title, every twist is broadcast to you prior to the event. As viewing minutes tick by, this grows immensely frustrating.
Also irksome is the feminism angle. Widows is not a feminist film, it's a film with women in it. And for a film with such a “feminist” hubbub around it, there is a lot of woman on woman slapping, where you know male characters would punch. In fact, from memory, all hand to hand female violence is a slap. This felt a bit wrong, if these are tough women, capable of performing a heist armed with guns and potentially killing, then they can throw a fucking fist.
Another issue, the racial not-so-subtext, initially quite cleverly done, was laid on with increasingly apparent visual clues. The subtlety was off, as black characters gradually surround the white ones, portraying the political and rich/poor issues of Chicago. Viola Davis is in the eye of that storm. That's not to have a go at the idea, I couldn't give a shit what the skin colour of the protagonist(s) is. Widows made it an issue, are we supposed to doubt she'll win because she's black? Please.
To end on a nicer note, much of the acting was good. Viola Davis held the film together brilliantly, but the absolute show stealer was Brit Daniel Kaluuya, utterly terrifying as the gang's sadistic muscle. Tealeaf has come a long way, it's great to see.
Bedsit it? I was expecting so much from Widows, that perhaps I was disappointed it didn't live up to that. The wankathon machine is in full flow over the film, and I like a circle jerk as much as the next man, but I just wasn't sold. Maybe over time I'll calm down and see it with fresh eyes. The eyes I had on in the cinema were the greyed, rotten eyes of a two week old fish. 4/10