Films and TV have relied on each other for decades. Since television began, showing movies on the ‘idiot box’ has been a mainstay. Likewise, cinema has plundered ideas for stories from countless TV shows to varying degrees of success. ‘Widows’ is the latest Tinsletown television facsimile based on a hit 1980’s British mini-series which was based on Lynda La Plante’s 1983 novel of the same name. With its talented ensemble, the story attempts to break out from its small-screen confines with a potentially gripping tale of love and vengeance.

Four armed thieves are killed during a botched heist on behalf of crime boss Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry). With the debt still to be paid, Jamal leans on the thieves’ widows to finish the job. Among the bereaved ladies are Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo). With shady politician Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) also mixed up in their plans, the quartet do what must be done in order to survive Jamal’s fearsome wrath.

Directed by Steve McQueen, ‘Widows’ is less than the sum of its parts. The lead actresses put in excellent performances and the main concept is sound. Notions of grief, betrayal and determination receive plenty of screen-time with everyone giving it their all. Sadly the muddled screenplay continually lets them down. ‘Widows’ feels like a series disparate sequences rather than a cohesive whole with too many characters vying for attention.

Perhaps the length of the original mini-series allowed for better characterisation than found here. A screenwriter can only squeeze in so much in two hours versus the original’s six hours. McQueen does his best to keep things moving and he handles the action scenes very well. The few surprises are genuine with Hans Zimmer’s score aiding in ratcheting up the story’s intensity. It’s a pity the narrative is a confused jumble as ‘Widows’ had a lot of potential to be a stirring movie.

Cinema will always rely on television for ideas with ‘Widows’ the latest providing inspiration. It doesn’t quite work with more time is needed to develop characters and increase story focus. As a vehicle to see fine actresses show their skills, ‘Widows’ doesn’t disgrace itself with their characters not going down without a fight.

Rating out of 10: 6

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