Director Steve McQueen has already won an Academy Award.
So has Viola Davis, and her intensity lights up whatever scene
she's in, and anybody else on the screen better have some luminosity of
their own. Liam Neeson plays
her husband, and the crook, and he's Oscar-nominated, and is an A-list
star in his own right. So is
Colin Farrell, a Golden Globe winner, who plays Jack Mulligan, the smooth
Chicago politician running for Alderman.
And we all assume that Chicago politicians walk on the Dark Side,
right? And nobody can play a
cussed, cussing old coot like Robert Duvall, who somehow looks decrepit
and menacing at the same time. Michelle
Rodriguez, of “Fast and Furious” fame, carries her own glaring persona
into her role, and then there's the tall, cool, blonde model, Elizabeth
Debicki, contrasted with the short, tough little fireball, Belle (Cynthia
Arivo), and that's just the gang of Widows.
Director Steve McQueen also provides us with some striking
performances from the supporting cast.
The politician Jamal Manning is played by Brian Tyree Henry with a
tense combination of smooth and menacing;
a velvet hammer of intimidation.
Molly Koontz as Jack Mulligan's wife seems innocently supportive in
her visual scenes, but then gives her flagging husband a profane
tongue-lashing, portrayed only on the audio as their black limousine purrs
away from a blighted street in the ghetto.
Jamal's brother, and apparent campaign manager, Jatemme Manning
(Daniel Kaluuya), does the dirty work, but casually, without ever getting
his own hands dirty, or even wrinkling his suit.
Director Steve McQueen also throws us some red herrings.
There's the passionate preaching of
Reverend Wheeler (Jon Michael Hill), a smooth-talking politician
who might be aligned with the bad crowd.
And did he privately imply that his political allegiance was for
sale? Carlos (Manuel Garcia
Rulfo) we barely meet, but we immediately loathe him, because of the way
he suddenly switches to sweet and soft after he hits her.
But wait, the women slap each other, as well.
And not all of the smoking guns are accounted for.
And there's some viewer deception at the beginning, which may or
may not explain a betrayal at the end.
Director Steve McQueen knows how to provide us with studies in
contrast. Scenes from a
violent robbery and gunfight interspersed with quiet domestic tranquility.
A hyped-up auctioneer is standing across from an innocent buyer
holding up a number, who's taking advice from a stranger.
There's women who own hair salons and clothing boutiques, who live
in high-rise urban condos, and men who dwell in squalor, on the seamy side
of town, playing mindless games of chance with pin-up girls taped to the
dry wall. The physical
intimacy we witness at first turns out to be deceptive.
The steamy sex scene is actually a mere business transaction.
An upscale sauna is where we discuss entering a life of crime.
Director Steve McQueen, in concert with acclaimed writer Gillian
Flynn, provides us with a multi-faceted gem, which reflects light
differently every time it turns. The
beginning may be a bit deceptive, and the ending a bit puzzling, but the
middle is an immersion into a jaded labyrinth where you'll find yourself
rooting for the rookie criminals.