Quiz: which of these is the plot of “Widows”?

  1. When four thieves are killed while escaping a job gone wrong, their grieving wives get together to pull off a heist.
  2. Corrupt politicians in Chicago battle to win an aldermanic election and control of their ward.
  3. Gangsters give a woman two weeks to pay off her husband’s debts — or else.

The correct answer is 4. All Of The Above.

That’s the problem with “Widows.” It’s all over the place, trying to tell too many stories at once, telegraphing its supposed-to-be-surprises, and, in the process, blowing an opportunity to focus on one of them and tell it well. Director Steve McQueen (“12 Years A Slave”) and his co-writer Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) spend too little time on the female protagonists and their plans for the heist — when details matter — and too much on the male antagonists and distractions.

The result is a mess that had my wife and me walking out of the theater shaking our heads because we’d gotten our hopes up after seeing the list of very solid actors gathered for this project. There’s no denying that Viola Davis can carry any movie or TV show, and she gets strong support from Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo (whose work in “Bad Times At The El Royale” I raved about). The guys in the cast include Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya (so good in “Get Out”), Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jon Bernthal.

McQueen even got Robert Duvall to play Farrell’s father, but — and it pains me to say this — it may be time for Duvall to follow Gene Hackman’s lead and quit making movies. His work in his last several has been on the same note and as pretty much the same character over and over again (sadly, he plays a similar role in “Widows”). None of them have allowed him to show off the finesse and talent Duvall used to build a career’s worth of memorable roles.

It’s a disappointment to see so many people whose work I respect in a project which somehow never coalesces into a well-made piece of entertainment. I give “Widows” a 4 out of 10.