‘Widows’ Review

The only bad thing about Widows was the three guys sitting behind me shuffling their bags of popcorn after every handful.

Heist movies, they are a tale as old as time. We see them every so often, it’s a fantastic genre of movie. I’ve seen plenty of them in my life and some have even reached the upper echelon of my favorite films. What makes this genre so unique is when a talented filmmaker decides to add a little flavor of their own and tries not to reinvent the wheel, but rather create something we as film lovers have not seen before. Steve McQueen the wonderfully talent director of 12 Years A Slave, Hunger and Shame steps into new territory with Widows and I must say, he knocked it out of the park. He managed to take something I love and breathes new life into it, making for a thrilling, pulse-pounding, an emotionally charged entertaining heist film.

Widows certainly has shades of other great heist films, Point Break, and The Town both come to mind. McQueen takes from those great films and is able to add layers into what can at times, be described as a cut-and-dry genre. Walking out I thought to myself, if you took a blender and added a little Mean Girls, Point Break and The Town and blended them all flawlessly together, the end product would be Widows. I think that’s the highest regard I can give this movie. All three films I love and that’s just what it reminded of. We all know that in these types of movies there are usually men doing bad things for most of the time good reasons. To provide for their families, maybe it’s to start over, begin a new life. But what McQueen manages to do, is peel back the curtain and we examine what happens after a job goes bad. These men have families, they had lives outside the world of crime. So when they die, what happens to the things and the people they leave behind? This is the forefront of Widows, and I really loved this idea, as generic as it may seem, McQueen gets you invested in these women and you find yourself rooting for them the entire way. The reviews were pouring in, and for the most part, it was being met with the highest of praise, but some film reviewers I trust, didn’t see it that way. So I was curious to see which side of the fence I would land on. I can tell you that this is not only one of the best films of the year, but it also happens to be one of my favorites.

Losing a loved one is never easy, in fact, it’s one of the toughest hardships to deal with in life. But what happens when that loved one is dead and they owe 2 million dollars to some crazy, badass, terrifying people. Well, that is the rundown here, Veronica (Viola Davis) owes some bad people a lot of money. Her husband Harry (Liam Neeson) the head of the crew dies and she is left to pay his debt. The rest of his crew Florek (Shane Bernthal), Carlos (Manuel-Garcia Rulfo) and Jimmy (Coburn Goss) all perish with him in a heist gone horribly wrong. All four of these men had wives and a family, so when Veronica gets in contact with the other ladies to tell them that their lives are in danger, they take it upon themselves to pull their late husband’s final job and get out of this mess. Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and an outsider Belle (Cynthia Erivo) all decide that in order to protect not only themselves by the one a closest to them, but they must also band together and pull off this heist. On the other end of the spectrum, the ones trying to collect what’s rightfully theirs, we have the worst Manning brothers since Peyton and Eli. Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) and Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya). Jamal is running for city council and wants to become the first African American in history to win his Ward, while Jatemme serves as his ruthless muscle (more on Kaluuya later). Standing in their way is Jack Mulligan (Colon Ferrel) whose family has been in politics for generations, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. The political aspect of the movie was fine, it hits hard on some important issues and problems that America is dealing with today. But at the heart of Widows is a truly great heist film.

Like most heist films their are certain twists and turns along the way, one in particular that even had me say “NO WAY,” and in a time where you can kind of sense and feel out most movies, that one actually took me by surprise. Widows keeps you on your feet and keep you guessing until the very end. From the opening shot of the film you are invested and kind of all in on what is taking place. The story is great, but what makes Widows truly special are the performances. Viola Davis, as usual, is a juggernaut giving just a phenomenal emotional raw performance. She continues to be one of the best leading actresses Hollywood has to offer. We get to see her in a new light as well, she even had a Sarah Conner and Ripley look going on, rocking a white beater. Widows makes Davis look like a kickass action star. It should come as no shock that she’s fantastic and she does a great job carrying the emotional weight of this film. Elizabeth Debicki I thought was just wonderful and was going toe-to-toe with Davis in some pretty powerful scenes. But the man of the hour, Mr. Get Out himself, Daniel Kaluuya. My god, that man is a freight train from hell. I heard he was terrifying going in and he gave a goosebumps level performance, but you really have to see it, to believe it. He can do so much with his facial expressions. He does just that here because he is a man of very few words, but his actions jump off the screen. You’re on edge because you don’t know what he’s about to do, one moment he’s smiling, the next, you’re dead. It’s a chilling performance and one to remember in 2018. There’s a scene that takes place in a bowling alley and I legit had my hands over my mouth because it was about to hit the floor, he’s that damn good in Widows. His calm demeanor yet his ruthlessness meshed so incredibly well together, I want him for the next James Bond villain. The cast is obviously stacked and full of talent, but one thing was missing. Steve McQueen has worked with Michael Fassbender for every movie, but he sits this one out. The weakest part of Widows, although Liam Neeson is a terrific actor, I couldn’t see him in this role. I dunno, something was off and those scenes where’s he’s acting next to Viola Davis, he’s getting his ass kicked. I think that’s where Fassbender can elevate his game and I think he would have made the movie perfect. But that’s such a small nitpick because Neeson is wonderful, but I thought about that all during the movie.

Overall, Widows is full of powerful performances and a smart clever story. I was entertained the entire time and I was invested in our heroines the whole way through. Come Oscar season this may pop up here and there for certain categories, especially Viola Davis for best actress. If you enjoy heist flicks this will be right up your alley, I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s not performing well at the box-office right now, which is crazy to me. Go support this movie, because we need more movies like Widows in our cinemas.

Nate’s Movie Tour Reviews – Widows = 97/100

‘The Commuter’ Review

Liam Neeson, stop trying to have a family or travel anywhere. It never works out for you. This movie is a train wreck.

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(LIONSGATE) 

“A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.”

Seriously, this was the exact look I had on my face when I left the theatre. It was a mix of what the hell did I just watch, and when is Liam Neeson going to stop making these kinds of movies? Look I know it’s January, the best-worst movie month of the year. What I mean by that is, usually great Oscar movies come out during this time, but January is also home to the terrible action/thriller like The Commuter. I see a lot of movies, but this will be tough to beat for the worst movie I will see in theatres this year. Look it’s just not very memorable, I thought Neeson was going to be his usual badass self, wasn’t really the case here. I’m also really tired of seeing Liam Neeson yell into his cell phone about “STAYING AWAY FROM MY FAMILY!”

So Michael MacCauley (Neeson) is an ex-cop turned insurance salesman who is having big time financial trouble. He’s been taking the same commuter train for the last 10 years; he’s a regular and knows all the other regular passengers. When Joanna (Vera Farmiga) confronts Michael about finding a certain person on board and when he does that he will receive 100 thousand dollars. Seems simple enough right? Vera Farmiga, she’s just so wonderful, I’ve really loved her since her early work, and she’s always so terrific in whatever she’s in. For the very little screen time she does get, she’s killing it as you’d expect. So as usual in these types of movies, everything isn’t as easy at is sounds and appears. When people start dying on the commute home, Michael starts to unravel a conspiracy that goes really deep. That’s enough of the plot, because that pretty much is the entire plot, not too much to it and you’ll guess all the twists and turns before they even occur. I just wanted this not be another generic Liam Neeson movie, you know, yelling into cell phone – fights some one – uncovers another clue – more yelling into a cell phone – massive explosions – twist is uncovered – a life and death decision – credits roll. Like who is Liam Neeson’s agent? Are these the phone calls they have?

Agent: ” Hey Liam, got a great new project for you!”

Liam: “What is it?”

Agent: “Remember the movies you were in, Non-Stop and Taken? Well picture that, but on a train!”

Liam: “Do I get to yell into a cell phone?”

Agent: “Yes, more than once actually”

Liam: “Sign me up!”

At this point he deserves better, but when you are constantly type casted you really have no choice. This is his fourth go-around with director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night) and I firmly believe that this is the worst of the four. The others had some good moments and I actually think Run All Night is pretty underrated. I get it, you form a bond with a director, it happens all the time in Hollywood, but for most pairings they are making great movies. Liam Neeson shouldn’t take every role Jaume offers him, because it’s doing more harm than good. The movie just never really reaches a point where I was invested. The action is bleak and shot poorly; the cast is just full of lifeless faces. Besides Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill and Jonathan Banks, the cast is so disposable and forgettable. You would think that a Liam Neeson action/thriller would have at least one great action sequence, well it doesn’t. A few hand to hand fist fights, and when they keep reminding you that his character is sixty, it’s hard to believe he can do the things he’s doing.

This is just a big dumb January action movie. If you need some time to kill or you are a really big fan of Liam Neeson go nuts. If you are like me and don’t really enjoy sitting through shitty movies, this might not be for you. I wanted to have fun with it, laugh at the corny jokes and hopefully be entertained in brief moments, but that never really did happen. Liam says he’s done with action movies, and maybe he should be, or maybe he just needs to find the right action movies to be in. Keanu Reeves reinvented himself with the John Wick franchise; I think Liam Neeson should consider doing something similar, because he’s too damn awesome to hang it up in the action genre. Overall I just didn’t enjoy this movie as much as I wanted too, I had to look up his name on IMDB, that’s how forgettable it was. When you sit back and think about it, Liam Neeson, once flew on a plane and it crashed. He was then stalked by wolves and ultimately had to bare knuckle box a wolf to the death. He got on an airplane and it almost fell from the sky. His family keeps getting taken. Maybe for his next movie, he is a single man who just walks everywhere, that would be something worth watching.

Check ya later.

Nate’s Movie Tour Reviews – The Commuter = 52/100