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“A little more conversation, a little less action”

Two of the best movies I’ve seen this year were coincidentally “dramaheist” movies. But as these things tend to go, that may be more zeitgeist than coincidence. I loved American Animals earlier in the year; a student art-heist movie, which brought some fresh blood to the true crime genre by frequently cutting away to talking-head documentary scenes of the true-life subjects.

Last night I saw Widows. The premise is about a bunch of women recently widowed by a robbery-gone-wrong involving their criminal husbands, which forces them into a situation where they have to contemplate taking on a heist themselves. Now imagine this was made by the creators of The Wire; characters you actually care about playing this out as a proper gritty drama. It’s not by David Simon but with Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn at the helm, the calibre isn’t far off.

Back to American Animals. There’s one scene in where they completely take the piss of an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist; stylishly choreographed action sequences, perfectly synced to phat beatz and shit punchlines. But it’s a brief fantasy scene before reality kicks back in and we see what it might actually be like for regular people to attempt a crime like this.

This scene reads like the funeral of shallow Hollywood cheesefests; all style and no content-that-anyone-actually-cares about, and the birth of an era where even action heist movies are played out with authentic drama and real bite. It’s also a final nail in the coffin of men-led action-movie yawn-a-thon. The actors playing the widows outshine the husbands so much that it’s actually laughable. It may even be deliberate. It’s like the men are in a different movie, chewing the scenery, awful accents, and stuck in a time warp of crap action movies, leaving the finer acting to the leading ladies. More of this please. All of this.

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