Directed by: Steve McQueen – Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson
This is being hailed as a big-screen American production of Lynda La Plante’s acclaimed 1980s TV show. However, it is not American audiences’ first introduction to the premise, as there was also a TV remake of the original show in 2002. While that strayed somewhat from the original story, here Steve McQueen tries to remain truer to La Plante’s vision, and indeed this seemingly has her seal of approval.
If you’re not familiar with the tale, it tells the story of the widows of a gang of robbers killed in a heist. When their mark comes looking for the money they stole from him, they step up to undertake a job that had already been planned, in order to pay off the debt.
What marks this out from most heist movies is that the protagonists are women. Also they are not in this for the kicks – this is life or death for them. With stakes that high, you can imagine that the tension is palpable. Except it’s not always. While Davis et al give great performances at times this suffers from sluggish pacing, meaning that you lose the sense of urgency such a situation would create.
Also, McQueen has injected this with a lot of social commentary, and, as a result, in parts everything becomes a bit diluted. It’s as if he’s trying to juggle entertaining the audience with imparting a serious message, and neither element gets to breathe properly.
Although there isn’t a huge amount of time spent on fleshing out the characters, you still find yourself rooting for Davis’ character. Overall, the movie suffers because of this lack of development though. You only ever get glimpses of what might be driving people, and quite often it is more telegraphing than anything else.
Also at times it is extremely predictable. That said, at the screening I attended, a group of girls seemed genuinely astonished by the twists and turns, so perhaps I am just too cynical after reviewing so many movies of this genre.
If this didn’t boast such a stellar cast, it would probably be a TV-movie offering, rather than a big-screen outing. It does indeed entertain, but it never quite has you on the edge of your seat the way a good heist movie should.
It is wonderful to see women at the forefront of a movie like this, and long may it continue. But giving them more rounded characters would make a real difference to how they are received.
This isn’t taxing, and if you just want to switch off and give your brain the evening off, then it is perfect fare. Indeed, for Liam Neeson, it is probably the handiest role he has ever played!
I doubt it will spawn a sequel like the original TV series though, which is a real pity, as the world could do with more strong women from diverse backgrounds heading up movies.
In Cinemas Now!