Stars: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry
A big screen reworking of Lynda La Plante’s 1980s TV series may seem a left field choice for artist-turned-auteur director Steve McQueen, but this ambitious and sprawling, if flawed, follow up to ’12 Years a Slave’ boasts enough visual flourishes and bravura cinematic touches to remind us who is in the driving seat. It opens with a tender scene between middle-aged couple, Veronica (Davis) and her criminal husband Harry (Neeson), before cutting to a raid being carried out by Harry and his three accomplices which goes disastrously wrong, resulting in the perpetrators’ deaths. Harry and co.’s debts do not disappear with them however, and soon Jamal (Tyree Henry), a local heavy with ambitions of becoming a respectable politician, comes calling, threatening Veronica if she does not come up with the money he is owed. Finding the plans of Harry’s next intended job, Veronica persuades/blackmails two of her fellow widows, mother of two and shop-owner Linda (Rodriguez) and the beaten-down beauty Alice (Debicki) to carry the job out. While planning the heist, the criminal novices discover a new purpose. Also in the mix is Jack Mulligan (Farrell), a silver spoon wannabe politician hoping to follow in the footsteps of his corrupt politician dad (a vicious Robert Duvall). While it is always interesting to see an auteur tackling a genre piece, the picture lies a little uneasily between ‘The Wire’-style multi-layered social realist drama, with an attendant over-crowded gallery of characters, and more conventional heist conventions. Still the cast are uniformly excellent and the picture features a number of strikingly memorable sequences, most notably a car conversation between Jack and one of his assistants in which we see, via the windscreen’s reflection, the shift from affluent neighbourhood to dilapidated ghetto.