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Film / Widows

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Widows is a 2018 Crime Fiction Thriller directed by Steve McQueen and written by him and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). It is based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name.

The movie follows a group of women whose husbands were killed while committing a robbery, losing all of the money they stole in the process. Soon after, the widows find themselves threatened by Jamal Manning, the criminal who their husbands had targeted, and who demands they repay him the $2 million lost during the heist. Veronica, the leader of the women, decides to use plans for another heist left behind by her husband to get the money and enlists her fellow widows to help her pull it off.

Meanwhile, Manning is attempting to get elected alderman of his district, facing off against the son of an influential local power broker who just happens to be the intended target of the widows' heist.

The movie stars *deep breath* Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. The movie premiered at the 2018 Toronto Internationa Film Festival ahead of a November 16 release.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parent:
    • Tom Mulligan was this to his son Jack, talking about how he can still beat him.
    • Agnieska, Alice's mother. In addition to being physically abusive well into Alice's adult life, she lures her own daughter into sex work while also slut-shaming her, providing caresses and kind words in the interim. She's a walking horror show.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Tom Mulligan, who was a racist and abusive old man, is shot by Linda during the heist, having cornered the women and then shot Alice.
    • Jatemme, Jamal’s sadistic brother, is rear-ended into a crash by the women when he attempts to steal the van with the heist money.
    • Harry fatally double-crosses his three partners, but at least two of them are posthumously revealed to have been less than upstanding; Alice's husband Florek beat her, and Carlos, Linda's husband, secretly pledged the store they were leasing as collateral to pay off his massive gambling debts.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the larger context. The four women survive the heist with their lives and the money. However, their robbery of Jack Mulligan and murder of his father resulted in him winning the election in a wave of sympathy votes. And since he started all the plot's trouble, through his embezzlement of minority owners' money and hiring of Harry to steal from Jamal's campaign, it's likely he will create more problems in the future. Then again, it's clear Jack never wanted to be a politician and only did it under pressure from his father. Veronica has framed Harry for Tom Mulligan's murder, and now Jack's money is gone. Jack has a miserable future ahead of him, plus possible guilt for his role in his father's death.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Harry, returning at the climax to steal the heist money, seemingly kills Veronica, but had his back turned for too long and missed her drawing her own gun to kill him first.
  • Batman Gambit: Harry hoped that Veronica would sell the book to the Mannings, leading them to rob the Mulligans and hopefully kill Jack, allowing Harry to get away with all the money. Veronica messes up his plan by keeping the book and robbing the Mulligans herself.
  • Big Bad: There's almost a pile-up of Big Bads. Jamal is the most blatantly threatening character who drives the plot, but he's ultimately just another victim of Harry's machinations, making Harry the true albeit hidden Big Bad.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Jack Mulligan is introduced to Jatemme for the first time, he says, "I love you too," a riff on how Jatemme's name sounds like "Je t'aime", which means "I love you" in French.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Jack Mulligan displays an image on the campaign trail as a progressive politician who recognizes the value of Americans of all races. In private, he is racist and homophobic, frequently putting down his opponent Jamal in an attempt to pump himself up. During one public event, he poses with black women he boasts he made into independent business owners, but ignores a reporter's request to speak about the claims that he's been embezzling from those same women. Then, upon getting in his car, Jack starts ranting about "encroaching" black communities right behind the chauffeur of his car, who is also black.
    • David, the man who Alice begins seeing when she joins an escort service. He is seemingly kind to Alice, letting her take her time on moving toward sexual activity and using his connections to help her with the blueprint she's investigating. But he is still in a relationship with her based on around keeping Alice indebted to him with money and he sees nothing wrong with that, claiming to view all life as based around transactions. When Alice appears to warm up to him and asks, after multiple liaisons, if she could move in with him, he tries to divert the question and tells her only to care about all the money he's giving, implying he is married.
    • Harry. While a thief, he also seems charming and truly in love with Veronica. Then he kills his own crew as part of faking his death and letting Veronica hold the bag on the robbery. He shows his true colors when confronting Veronica about the stolen money, even striking her and ready to kill her until she shoots him first.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Invoked. Jack asks Siobhan if she’s ever been with a black guy, and she tells him he needs to be more concerned about his struggling campaign than the comparative size of his anatomy.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Jatemme does this to one of the guards that was rapping during the theft of his brother's campaign money that starts off the movie's plot.
  • Broken Bird: Alice has been smacked around for most of her life. Florek would frequently beat her, and then it's revealed that her mother was and continues to be a horrific abuser. Alice eventually develops out of this, becoming strong and assertive.
  • The Caper: The centerpiece of the film is a heist to get money to repay the cash that Harry stole.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The voice-changing toy that Linda's daughter has is used later (more than one this time, of course) to disguise the widows' voices during the heist.
    • Veronica's dog, when brought to Harry's abandoned hideout, smells his scent on his jacket. Her dog grows excited again at a closet door at Amanda's house, because Harry, having faked his death, is there hiding. Also, there is Harry's flask, seen briefly at the start and also spotted at Amanda's.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A subplot one. One of the business owners brought on stage by Jack turns out to be Breechelle, who operates a hair salon that the heist's driver Belle works at. Jack's chauffeur seen just after the event is also seen at Breechelle's shop, and Belle recognizing him causes her to realize that Jack is still demanding money from her business.
  • Clark Kent Outfit: In the climax, Veronica is in a tank top that shows how well built she is under the cardigans and blazers.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Tom delivers one to Jack when he tells his father he fired the campaign manager that’s been with their family for 30 years.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Alice's first and seemingly only client when she becomes a sex worker just so happens to be a real estate developer with the connections to identify the building with the money, just from a blueprint.
    • Belle, Linda's babysitter, happens to work at Breechelle's shop, that was funded by Jack Mulligan. After the heist, she leaves money for Breechelle to pay off her debts.
  • Corrupt Politician: Jack Mulligan and his opponent for ward alderman, Jamal Manning, are both extremely crooked. Mulligan is heir to a political dynasty that runs on patronage (his incumbent father is, if anything, more corrupt than he is) and cuts deals with robbers to steal from Manning's campaign funds. Manning, for his part, is an out-and-out gangster who barely tries to maintain a veneer of respectability and is fully willing to resort to violence to get his way.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: It's revealed that the plans for the heist was deliberately left by Harry as a bartering chip to give to the Mannings. They were never supposed to go through with the heist themselves. Harry is furious at how badly they botched that plan, though he was quick to try and take the payout for himself.
  • Country Matters: Alice refers to Veronica by the word due to Veronica's abrasive attitude towards her. She voices her disapproval of the word, to which Alice uses it again.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Veronica takes every measure she can to prepare the women for the execution of the heist, including making them train running with increasingly heavy backpacks filled with dirt, because they don’t know how many bills the money was printed in.
    • Belle, who joins the team late, reveals herself to be a self-taught sprinter, spy, gun-wielder, and hairdresser. Up until she joined, Linda only knew her as a babysitter.
  • Deadpan Door Shut: During the climactic heist of the Mulligan home, nurse Sarah opens her door and sees the three armed robbers. Despite their gun training, none of the widows have killed before and they targeted the building when it was most likely to be empty. After an intense staredown, Sarah gets the hint and retreats, shutting the door. Unfortunately, Tom Mulligan doesn't get the hint and tries to confront the robbers, getting himself killed in the process of shooting one of them.
  • Despair Event Horizon: His son Marcus' shooting death at the hands of a racist cop, which Harry heard as he was talking to his son on the phone, not only destroyed Harry and Veronica's marriage, but made him decide to fake his death and leave everything — including Veronica — behind, running off with a friend of Veronica whose husband also died in the heist and whose son he fathered.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • A lot of mistakes are made in the preparation for the heist and during it, as one would expect from a group of women that hardly know each other and have almost zero criminal experience.
    • Alice is sent to get a van for the heist... only she can't drive, meaning Veronica needed to arrive to drive the car from the auction.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: In the opening, Harry’s crew’s van explodes when shot at by the police. Subverted when we see the event again from Harry’s POV. He planted explosives in the van and set them off during the attack, killing his own crew and rendering the dummy corpse inside too charred to be identified as not him.
  • Evil Old Folks: Tom Mulligan, a corrupt and racist old monster who beat his wife and child and cares only for power.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: All of the widows grow closer over the course of the heist planning, but a deeper friendship seems to have formed between Alice and Veronica towards the end.
  • Finger in the Mail: A variant. As the deadline to deliver the money approaches, Jatemme mails Veronica a letter containing Bash's ring, acquired after Bash was beaten to death by Jatemme's henchmen.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Veronica leaves the gun used to kill Tom Mulligan in Harry's hands. In a way, Harry is responsible for Tom's death by virtue of being responsible for the entire plot due to his selfish actions.
  • For the Evulz: Jatemme Manning, Jamal's brother and enforcer, frequently tortures his victims in cruelly casual ways. When punishing two guards who slacked off during Harry's break-in, he makes them continue the rap they were goofing off with before shooting one and letting the other attempt to flee in a panic before shooting him too. When confronting Bobby, he tosses him out of his wheelchair and stabs him all over the body, even testing to see if Bobby reacts to wounds in his paralyzed legs, and then putting his wheelchair a significant crawling distance away. Then when killing Bash, Jatemme turns up the TV real loud, to obscure Bash's screams as he's beaten to death, and watches football calmly. While Jamal states he wants to go into politics because he sees a longer life coming through there than through a gang, Jatemme has no desire to transition to a place where there isn't killing.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The wives are older than most examples but still qualify. Alice is the most naive and somewhat ditzy of the four. Belle with her running and boxing skills is the tomboyish one. Linda downplays elements of the glamorous one, but she does own a dress shop and at one point uses kissing to escape an awkward situation. Veronica is the ringleader and the wise one.
  • Grief-Induced Split: Veronica and Harry's happy marriage crumbled after the death of their son Marcus, who was shot by police while talking on the phone with his father.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Alice attempts to be this. At one point, she becomes The Mistress to a millionaire called David.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Jatemme trying to rob the women of the heist money moments after it was taken bites him in the ass when they chase after him in his own car and make him crash.
  • It's All About Me: For all his grief over the death of his son and his genuine surprise that Veronica didn't just sell the notebook he provided for her, when it comes right down to it, Harry cares only about himself. He coldly murders his entire crew, fakes his own death, places Veronica and the other widows at serious risk, and plans to run away with his new secret family. He ultimately comes across as rather pathetic, screaming that he had to save himself and making it clear who his number one priority is.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: What's to be expected when several housewives have to turn to using guns for the first time. Linda and Alice start out pretty badly during their first practice at the gun range, Linda in particular finding to her dismay that every one of her bullets missed the target. Ironically, she ends up shooting Tom Mulligan when the heist escalates into a gunfight.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Alice's gold dress she wears when first becoming a call girl. The costume designer intentionally wanted it to look tacky, and Linda's line comparing it a condom was ad-libbed by Michelle Rodriguez.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Jatemme tortures Bobby Welsh to get information out of him, knocking him out of his wheelchair and puncturing him repeatedly with his knife.
  • Kick the Dog: Jamal Manning arrives at Veronica's home with obvious evil intent, but puts on a facade of friendliness by picking up her dog and petting her throughout their conversation. When he gets angry, he yanked on the dog's collar, producing a pained yelp and showing he was not to be considered a sympathetic character.
  • Lady Macbeth: Played with in an amusing way. Siobhan, Jack Mulligan's aide, is functionally silent and nodding along at all his campaign events. But in a car ride done as The Oner focused on the outside of the car so we can't see them, she proceeds to verbally abuse him for his incompetence and allowing the race to be so close. As soon as they exit the car, Siobhan returns to full "nodding aide" mode.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black:
    • While Jack Mulligan is undoubtedly a corrupt sleazeball with racist tendencies and his deal with Harry set off the entire plot he is slightly less so than his father, whose shadow he is trying to escape from. He also presents much less of a physical threat to the widows than the Mannings.
    • The widows themselves have fairly selfish motivations, and at least a few of them were aware of their husbands' criminal activities, Veronica especially (which is why Jamal is so keen to stick her with the bill for Harry's robbery of him). That's not even getting into how much they bicker with each other. Still, they're nowhere near as greedy or thuggish as the men they're all up against, and during the heist, they avoid killing anyone who isn't armed. By the end, they've developed a close camaraderie, and use their proceeds to the community's benefit.
  • Mock Millionaire: While not quite that rich, Linda learns the hard way she falls into this category. She assumed she was doing well with her shop and always giving the monthly lease payments to her husband to pay off as well as the takes from his robberies. It turns out he just spent all that money at the racetrack and made a slew of bad gambles. Linda had no idea until she comes to her shop to find a bunch of gangsters tearing it up, telling them that her husband sold them the deed to pay off his debts, but died still owing them, so they're just cleaning her out. This instant bankruptcy pushes Linda to join Veronica's heist plan.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers indicated Belle was one of the wives of the gang killed early on. She's really a late recruit with no relation to them previously.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Jatemme hijacking the women's heist and escaping with their van gives them a decoy to have the robbery blamed on: himself, when the women rear-end him into a crash and leave him for dead.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The movie opens with the theft gone wrong that led to Harry and his crew being killed. Later, we see it again only we now see how Harry set the whole thing up, using another corpse in the driver's seat and ensuring his crew would be taken out by the cops and an explosion while he walked off.
  • The Oner: An extended shot of Jack walking to his car and being driven through his district as he speaks with an aide about the state of the area, contrasting his words with the environment.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Downplayed. Alice is shot in the shoulder by Tom Mulligan during the heist, and immediately shoots him back, but quickly grows too weak to walk under her own power. She is taken to an ambulance by Linda, and after an indeterminate amount of time, is seen alive at the end with seemingly no lasting damage.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Harry and Veronica's son is pulled over by police while driving a nice car. He is shot multiple times by a police officer while reaching for his cell phone.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Both Linda and Veronica prove to be, which is justified given their circumstances.
  • Race Lift: The widows from the original series were three white women and one black woman. The movie's group is more diverse: two black women, one Latina, and a white Polish-American woman.
  • Remake Cameo: Ann Mitchell, who played the lead in the original show, plays Amanda's mother.
  • Scary Black Man: Both of the Manning brothers qualify, though Jamal is able to turn it on or off as he pleases, only being overtly scary while menacing Veronica. Jatemme is in this mode all the time.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Harry and Veronica's son is shot dead by the cops who pull him over, because he dropped his cell phone then leaned over to get it, seeming like a gun in their eyes. He was on the phone not listening when they ordered him to show his hands.
  • Shower Scene: There are frequent flashbacks with Harry in the shower.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Alice has a non-verbal one where after Veronica slut shames her and even slaps her, Alice delivers a massive slap right back - showing she is done taking Veronica's bull.
  • Slut-Shaming: When Alice doesn't like her mother's suggestion of becoming a prostitute, Agnieska cruelly reminds her of all the boys she was with as a teenager.
  • The Sociopath: Jatemme, Jamal's brother/enforcer.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Alice, played by the 6'2 Elizabeth Debicki, is a tall, beautiful woman frequently seen wearing tight cocktail dresses. She towers over every person she shares the screen with, occasionally causing problems with keeping her in the same frame with the much shorter widows. During the car auction scene, for example, Alice noticeably stands out among the crowd of extras and not because she's the only woman there.
  • Stealth Pun: When Jack Mulligan is introduced to Jamal's brother Jatemme, he replies "I love you too." Je t'aime is French for "I love you."
  • Took a Level in Badass: All four of the women who started out as quiet, unassuming wives and have to become ruthless thieves to survive. Alice takes the most levels, though, starting out victimized by her abusive husband and mother, but as the preparation for the heist progresses, she makes it clear that she is not going to take that sort of treatment anymore.
  • Wham Line: A terrific variation: While at Amanda's house, Veronica hears her dog barking like crazy... exactly the way he would bark at Harry. She then sees Harry's flask on the table and that, combined with the barking, makes her realize Harry is alive and hiding behind the door.
  • Wham Shot: The shot of Harry's flask in Amanda's apartment and the realization that he's having an affair with her, followed by the further Wham Shot that he's still alive.
  • When She Smiles: Veronica displays a positively dazzling smile as the film's last shot to underscore how much she's changed since it began.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Alice's mother pulls this trick on her to convince her to become a call girl.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The titular widows demonstrate themselves to be masters at this.
    • Linda visits a building design firm. While there, she pretends to be a naive new employee and switches to Spanish when acting frustrated, gaining the sympathy of the Latina secretary she's speaking with. Then when meeting the husband of the designer she's looking for, she lapses into tears when the man is indignant with her for bringing up his deceased wife (the designer). They seemingly connect in their grief, impulsively make out, and then Linda leaves with him none the wiser.
    • Alice, who typically has an American accent, fakes a Polish one and pretends to be an escaped mail-order bride when visiting a gun auction. Her sob story of being alone in America trying to escape her pursuer gains her the trust of the gun enthusiast mother and daughter she lies to, them buying her excuse for wanting multiple Glocks.