“Widows” was a British TV series that enjoyed a two-year run from 1983 to 1985.
Created by legendary English author Lynda La Plante (“Prime Suspect”), the popular crime show was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award in the Best Television Drama category. In 2002, ABC turned “Widows” into a four-part miniseries starring Brooke Shields and Rosie Perez, but that substantially-revised overhaul failed to resonate with the American audience.
Now, Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) has brought a much more faithful adaptation to the screen, although the setting has been shifted from London to Chicago. The crime caper revolves around a trio of widows who opt to follow in their late husbands' felonious footsteps in the wake of a botched bank heist.
McQueen assembled an A-list ensemble featuring Oscar-winners Viola Davis and Robert Duvall, as well as nominees Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya and Jacki Weaver. The impressive cast also includes Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez.
Not long past the point of departure, veteran bank robber Harry Rawlings (Neeson) masterminds a robbery in which he and his partners perish. Trouble is, Harry died indebted to a couple of South Side mobsters (Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry) to the tune of $2 million.
Given a month to come up with cash (or else), Harry's widow, Veronica (Davis), hatches a plan to raise the money by burglarizing a safe in the mansion of a well-connected family headed by corrupt, Windy City alderman, Tom Mulligan (Duvall). To that end, she recruits a couple of the other grieving widows (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) and a getaway driver (Cynthia Erivo) with promises of a multimillion-dollar payday.
The plot proceeds to thicken in convincing fashion while touching on such timely themes as politics, loyalty, race and class. Since it would be a crime in itself to spoil the ensuing developments even one iota, suffice to say McQueen slowly ratchets up the tension in a searing, multi-layered suspense thriller not to be missed.
With the help of a delicious script expertly executed by a coterie of her talented co-stars, the incomparable Davis steals the show and delivers yet another Oscar-quality performance. Vintage Viola.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 129 minutes