To some degree, Widows marks a shift away from earnest, issue-driven drama towards glossy genre fare for British auteur Steve McQueen, who found mainstream success with his Oscar-winning 2013 historical epic 12 Years a Slave. Based on an 1980s TV series, and co-written by reigning queen of airport fiction Gillian Flynn, this new film is a high-stakes crime thriller, in which a motley crew of women unite after their husbands are killed in a bungled robbery. Beset by financial problems, they endeavour to pull off a heist outlined in a notebook bequeathed by gang leader Harry (Liam Neeson) to his formidable wife Veronica (Viola Davis). But with rival crooks and corrupt politicians nipping at their heels, the novice femme fatales soon find themselves out of their depth. As popcorn entertainment, Widows fully delivers, with snappy dialogue, outlandish plot twists and pulse-pounding action sequences. Yet, from the outset, it’s clear that McQueen is intent on subverting genre tropes, both by placing women of colour front and centre, and by rooting his larger-than-life tale in the unpalatable reality of modern American urban life.

Widows | Directed by Steve McQueen (UK, US 2018) with Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez. Starts December 6.

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