All that would be enough, seemingly, to give “Widows” a strong narrative hook, including the personal stories of the other widows, played by Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki (“The Night Manager”) and Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers”).
Condensing the miniseries into movie form, however, overwhelms the script by director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and “Gone Girl” novelist Gillian Flynn, which also takes several detours — including race, gun violence and Chicago politics, as Manning tries to go legit by running for alderman against a privileged son (Colin Farrell) whose family has run things in the ward for decades.
The strength of the casting, notably, goes well beyond that, including Cynthia Erivo — who joins the plot too late in the game to fully register — Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) as Jamal’s ruthless henchman, and Robert Duvall as Farrell’s imperious father.
Davis — grieving, angry and a virtual force of nature — provides the movie with a sturdy core, and she’s the best incentive to see it. Yet even she gets lost at times amid the maelstrom of events swirling around her, and while the script brings the pieces together, the ending feels rushed and unsatisfying after all the meticulous “Ocean’s”-movie-style planning and buildup.
“Widows,” in some respects, feels like a throwback — an old-fashioned, intricately plotted crime thriller that’s more about characters than explosions. Much like the heist scheme, though, the movie looks better on paper, ultimately, then it does in the execution.
“Widows” opens Nov. 16 in the U.S. It’s rated R.