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TIFF Review: Widows

When a heist goes fatally wrong, the widows of the thieves have to come up with the money or suffer the same fate.

A botched heist has one of the robbers seriously wounded and the police in pursuit.  When the S.W.A.T. team opens fire a massive explosion occurs that kills everyone inside in the getaway van.  A local crime lord with political aspirations seeks to be reimbursed for the stolen money by threatening the wives of the deceased robbers; in order to come up with the funds, the grieving widows decide to pull off their own heist.

No doubt that this is a pulp fiction story but filmmaker Steve McQueen is able to elevate the material beyond the genre restrictions by adding a social commentary about political corruption and skulduggery.  Unlike the usual formula of having an idealist taking on the nefarious establishment, the opposition is as equally corrupt which paints the world in shades of grey.  Another aspect is that the principal female cast members are not superheroes which heightens the sense of peril but also makes them a fascinating wild card.

Timelines are not chronological as backstories are gradually revealed in particular a police shooting that has had major ramifications.  The kissing memories are repetitive making the role of Liam Neeson feel like window dressing at times. The acting is solid with Viola Davis able to go from being a force to be to be reckoned with to emotionally distraught and terrified.  Daniel Kaluuya effectively portrays a henchman who has a disturbing casualness to violence which makes him a cross between Jaws and The Joker.  The music amplifies the tension as the payback heist takes place and a dramatic two-minute shot with the camera on a hood of a car literally showcases the class divide in Chicago with the actors only being heard not seen.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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