Review: Viola Davis is a formidable presence playing the grieving, vengeful mother of a teenage son killed in a drive-by shooting. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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Viola Davis is a formidable presence in “Lila & Eve,” playing the grieving mother of a teenage son killed in a drive-by shooting by a drug gang.

Lila’s grief is “a pain that goes past anything I’ve ever experienced,” and Davis plumbs the depths of that anguish in a stern, electrifying performance that transforms the picture into something far beyond a garden-variety revenge thriller. Which on the surface “Lila & Eve” resembles: Grief-stricken mom picks up a gun and wreaks vengeance on the men responsible for her son’s death.

But the movie has much more in mind than purveying violent thrills.

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Lila & Eve,’ with Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Shea Whigham, Aml Ameen. Directed by Charles Stone III, from a screenplay by Pat Gilfillan. 94 minutes. Rated R for violence and language. Sundance (21+).

Lila’s grief is fueled not only by the fact her 18-year-old son, Stephon (Aml Ameen), has been shot down in the street, but by the further fact that the cops don’t much care.

Coming at a time when “black lives matter” has become a national rallying cry, “Lila” is particularly pointed as it portrays a situation in which the police have formed a task force to probe the slaying of a white cheerleader but where the lead detective (Shea Whigham) on the case of Lila’s son has trouble remembering the young man’s name.

The movie is at its most emotionally wrenching in scenes filmed in a support group for moms who have lost children to gang violence. It’s there that Lila meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez, much deglamorized) and is urged by her new friend to avenge her son.

The movie unexpectedly shades into the surreal as the two women unleash their wrath on a variety of gangsters, but through it all Davis’ portrayal of a mother’s pain, moving from hopelessness and despair to revenge and regret, gives the picture its impressive power.