Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen; based Widows by Lynda La Plante
Cinematographer: Sean Bobbitt
Producer: Steve McQueen, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, and Arnon Milchan
by Jon Cvack
It’s a movie like this that makes me grasp my Chicago roots. Before anyone raises the fact that writer Gillian Flynn lives in Chicago, she wasn’t born and raised there, and so I feel more comfortable saying that this movie feels like no one has any understanding of the City. I imagine most people from beyond Chicago might enjoy it, but as with any topic, when the storytellers fail on basic elements, it’s next to impossible to enjoy the story, as a cursory understanding combined with top class craftsmanship feels false. It’s for this reason that I feel like I can’t remove this fact from the story and provide an objective understanding.
For those wondering what I mean, although this story takes place on the Southside, no one in the film has a Southside accent. This is one of the best and most unique accents in the country; a hybrid between Fargo and Sopranos-lite. Colin Farrell attempts one, but swings too far East to make it believable. If people don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the Blues Brothers, and yes, while not as extreme, most people on the Southside do talk like this. Beyond Farrell, no one else even attempts this accent, and it was a glaringly obvious problem from the first seconds.
Secondly is how the city is captured, which makes it look far more glitzy than it actually is. The story utilizes the Fireside Bowl, which is essentially Chicago’s KBGB’s, both in its original allure and its latter and current ubiquitous Kohl’s t-shirt local tourist destination. Everyone who lives there knows what it is, but no one goes there because it’s mostly for people who don’t live in the city. It’s like if someone wanted to use the Whiskey GoGo in Hollywood as some shady bar. There were simply hundreds of other really cool places they could have used.
It did an okay job at demonstrating gentrification, but completely downplayed how severe the problem is; in which entire black neighborhoods are being destroyed, while the suburbs expand up and the city expands down, squeezing the impoverished black population in both directions, leaving them nowhere else to go.
I kept trying to consider the film as applied to some no name city and it definitely provided some great moments. Viola Davis steals the show and Daniel Kaluuya shows some terrifying range. Even Robert Duvall’s handful of scenes make the film worth watching alone. The heist is a bit fast for what’s the bread and butter for any film from the genre, but exciting enough. Individually all the parts work well, but it just felt dishonest. Even more surprising was that Richard Roeper thought it was the best film of 2018.
BELOW: Burt Reynold's remake
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