A Movie Review: Widows starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson

by: Cathy R. Foreman


SPOILER ALERT:

Were you adventurous enough to venture out this weekend to see Widows? Yes, well let’s chat. If you hate spoilers, stop here.

The Kiss:

I’m going to go ahead and get one thing right out the way…the opening scene. The opening scene for the film includes a smoking hot lip lock between husband and wife Veronica (Viola Davis) and Howard (Liam Neeson) Rawlins. I mean like holy cow, talk about steaming up the screen. Now I’m a Viola Davis and Liam Neeson fan, and while Viola is well-versed, the one thing I’ve never seen is a lip lock like this. I mean she’s had some pretty heated escapades on How to Get Away with Murder, but even with all her dalliances with Nate, I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen this type on tongue exchange. And it’s the same with Liam. I’ve been watching Liam since The Dead Pool  in 1988 and in all the movies I’ve seen him in, not once have I seen such an exchange between him and any of his co-stars. It was passionate, enthralling, sexy as hell and playful all at the same time. It just very well may have been one of the highlights of the entire movie for me.

– ODDLY or maybe not so much, I can’t find ONE image of them kissing –

Now onto the actual context of the film. With the kiss, ensues a series of flash-blacks involving the coupling of most of the characters and that brings us to present day. The women, Viola (Veronica), Michelle Rodriguez (Linda) and Elizabeth Debicki (Alice) are all married to these thieves. While the wives know about their lives, they don’t really know the details … such as they are. And suddenly during a heist something goes wrong, one of the guys is shot and in what appears to be a failed get away, they are all killed, thereby creating the “Widows”. As the head of the team, we realize that Howard (Neeson) is the more well-known of the group and with his “death,” we learn that the heist wasn’t just any heist. Howard and crew steal from another gangster Brian Tyree Henry (Jamal Manning), who also happens to be running for Alderman. Well apparently, there has been a code of conduct between the two and Howard has broken that code with his decision to steal from Jamal (Tyree). The crew stole a cool 2 mil and Jamal wants his money back. It was supposed to help him with his campaign. So, he pays a visit to Veronica and gives her 30 days to pay him back.

Now typically, this is when tempo would pick up. Sadly … it did not. However, it did introduce a new key player:

Belle checking Veronica

Cynthia Erivo as Belle:

In the trailer, we see Cynthia running at a fast speed and this amped up the hype for me. Once you get into the film though, the scene leaves a lot to be desired. I was rooting for Cynthia and was looking forward to seeing her spread her wings as a film actress. I had hope when she showed up and challenged Veronica and in one instance let her know “You’re gonna watch how you talk to me”, but the film fell short of producing that for me. Again, I was expecting more… I wanted more.

Cynthia is an accomplished operatic singer and a Tony Award Winning actress who I’ve been following and fangirling since her stint as Celie in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple”. Her voice is simply amazing, and I became even more of a fan after she performed with singer John Legend at The Grammy’s. This movie won’t mar my support of her. In fact, I look forward to seeing what’s next for this bright star.

 Still from WIDOWS | This look Linda give Veronica makes you think, it’s about to be on….

The look Linda gives Veronica makes you think, it’s about to be on….

Michelle Rodriguez as Linda:

Michelle is known for her bad-ass characters. And as soon as I saw she was in the is film AND with Neeson, I was like YES!!  I KNEW it was going to be jam-packed with a ridiculous amount of action. Yet another area where the film fell short. Again, I expected more. I wanted more. I mean it’s freaking Michelle Rodriguez and with that comes a certain expectation. I know…I know – we should not pigeonhole these actors and actresses into certain genres. Hell, I say it all the time–“I hope so and so doesn’t get pigeonholed in this type of role.” But then there are exceptions and for me, Michelle is one of them. She’s just a bad-ass. There’s no other way to say it. And to see her be demur, not able to handle a gun and things of the like was a bit off-putting for me. I don’t know, it’s probably just me … but I expected more.

Viola Davis as Veronica:

Seemingly, a woman who was madly in love with her husband, a mother, a dog lover and a community supporter. She also lived a “kept” life knowing what her husband was in to, but not to a full extent. When faced with the deadline, she pulls her big girl pants up and straps in for a plot. She ends up paying off the 2mil, gains an additional 3mil to divide among the widows and ultimately saving her own life. She takes control, sets up a meeting and lets these ladies know what the deal is. She delegates and thinks steps ahead. She has a book, her husband, Howard (Neeson) left behind for her. But there are details and gaps that she fills in as now the players have changed from men to women. SHE    ADAPTS. We’ve seen Viola in commanding performances being strong and taking charge before, so this was nothing outside of the norm for her.

Elizabeth Debicki as Alice:

I’m not familiar with Elizabeth Debicki. Her acting thoroughly impressed me. She went from more or less beaten and downtrodden to holding her own. She used what she had and made it work for her. In the beginning she comes off as aloof, but in time she takes a stand and says she will not be abused anymore. This is her turning point. As the film goes on, she even seems to impress herself with her ability and growth.

We find out that Howard (Neeson) is not only alive but having an affair with one of the other widows, which Veronica (Viola) finds out by her loving dog. What we miss is the thought process that goes into how she will deal with this revelation. It’s pretty clear and as a movie goes, you know that it’s going to come to a head and they will face off with Veronica killing Howard. It’s just a matter of when it all happens.

In the meantime, some other things take place. There’s an awkward exchange between Colin Farrell (Jack Mulligan) and another between him and his father, played by Robert Duvall (Mr. Mulligan) where the n-word is dropped. For me, these are all fillers and move the film along slowly. Daniel Kaluuya (Jatemme) kills a couple of dudes, lightly tortures another and watches while his goons kill another. Alice gets manipulated by her mom to join her escort service and pretty quickly starts an exclusive arrangement with Lukas Haas (David), where she ends up suing him to get some vital information for the widows.

Finally, we come to the planned heist. All seems to go well until they’re in the Jack Mulligan’s house and Veronica runs into a familiar face coming out of one of the bedrooms. After a death stare, the woman backs into the room and shuts the door. The Widows move on through the house and ultimately get the cash. On the way back down, they encounter Mr. Mulligan–with a gun . Alice is shot. Linda shoots and kills Mulligan. Now all the details and allowances that Veronica planned for start to come into play. The Widows make it out and it looks like they’re about to getaway, when trouble hits again. Jatemme is waiting for them in the getaway van, a gun held to Belle’s head. He kicks them out and they are left standing in the street.  Clever Veronica planned for this . While we don’t see it, the Widows hop in a car and tail Jatemme, ramming the van and killing him. They take back their prize and go on their way. This was lackluster to say the least. I anticipated some action. I sat up to pay attention, but I was let down again. It was quick. It didn’t linger. I wasn’t able to savor it and that for me was disappointing.

 The Big Finish….Kinda

For me, there was what probably should’ve been one of the biggest scenes … the climax. It was like, I never reached it. One of those moments when there’s a slow build. You’re coaxing him along–like just a little bit more…a little more but he keeps playing around and you never get there…ultimately having to finish the job yourself. Yah, just like that. That’s exactly how I felt. I mean I’m glad I went. I spent the evening with my mom and she didn’t fall asleep in the comfy chairs. I could’ve waited to watch it at home.

Well that’s my take …  what did you think?