The first dramatic offering of this year’s Aspen Film Fest certainly comes with an impressive pedigree; direction by Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) screenplay by Gillian Flynn, (of Gone Girl fame) adapting a crime novel written by Lynda La Plante, creator of the Prime Suspect series on BBC. The movie also features a cast of A-list actors including Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Robert Duval and Colin Farrell. The opening-night crowd had high expectations, but at this point in his career, McQueen has chosen to produce a Hollywood action piece with lots of mean-spirited violence that had much less to say than his earlier work like Shame and Hunger.
McQueen’s exploration of urban crime - - and those who suffer from it - - pays John Houston’s memorable Asphalt Jungle and like its predecessor, comes drenched in pervasive cynicism . Wisdom’s opening scenes possess the authentic look and feel of any big budget thriller, but the movie’s title signals it’s on to something much more tricky; an appropriation of the gangster scenario to provide a broad prospective on America society: ghettoized, politically bent, and above all, pervasive in its repression, degradation and humiliation of women.
Having just stolen $5 million in an armed robbery, Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and a trio of his thug-ish crew members get obliterated in heist gone wrong, destroying $5 million in the process. Unfortunately, a rival gangster with political ambitions had his eye on the same target and having learned Neeson’s identity, threatens to kill his widow Veronica (Ms. Davis) if she fails to deliver a like amount of money so he can bankroll a campaign to unseat Robert Duval’s aging, unscrupulous white alderman. With no one to turn to, Veronica recruits the wives of her husband’s crew to pull off the next robbery Rawlings was in the process of planning. Violence, betrayal and ascending levels of violence unfold before a major plot twist assures the appropriate males in the storyline get their gruesome comeuppance.
Widows and its comically inexplicable plot comes straight from the heart of film noir, where violence and depravity are normative - - but Widows has much more on its mind, dipping fleetingly into such complex subjects as pervasive police corruption, crooked political institutions and above all, the sexual manipulation and degradation of females who find themselves exploited simply because there’s no way out of their harrowing circumstances. But McQueen's solution - a mixture of Glock pistols, revenge and the creation of uneasy relationships between women involved in simply fighting to congtrol their own lives subverts the much richer commentary this movie was striving for.
The Verdict? If you like or need more urban mayhem, McQueen certainly delivers-but this one lacks the moral punch of his earlier work.
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