Queen & Slim

I’m so bummed about my trip to the Angelika Film Center to see this movie today. I missed the screenings of it and didn’t realize it was coming out in the middle of the week. It was pouring rain as I drove to the theatre, and the freeways were filled with people getting off work or driving a day early to their Thanksgiving destinations. And to top it all off, I always buy a handful of gift cards at Angelika / Reading Cinemas to put them in holiday cards for close friends. Yet when I got home, I see they have a deal starting on November 28th, where you can get $10 vouchers for the snack bar, and $20 ones during select days (Black Friday), with the purchase of $100. As much as I love movie theatre popcorn and am a cheapskate, it pains me that I already made my purchase. But I’m here to review a movie, not talk about gift cards. 

Most critics are going to compare this to Bonnie and Clyde, which is silly. I didn’t see any similarity (okay, well…a scene near the end). 

These two aren’t robbing banks on a crime spree across America. They were defending themselves from a racist and angry cop, who ended up dead on the road. It’s safe to say, this was the worst Tinder date ever. It’s also the start of a great premise. A couple that isn’t getting along so well, now being stuck together while on the lam. It’s just a shame that the idiotic stuff just starts piling up. I blame screenwriter Lena Waithe, who did an awful job with this story (based on a story by James Frey, the guy behind that fake memoir A Million Little Pieces, that got Oprah into some trouble years ago).

First time director Melina Matsouka needed a bit more nuance in the telling of this tale, in order to really see how these two would start to bond and fall in love [side note: I could never understand in movies how a couple can have sex when people are looking for, or trying to kill them; maybe it’s me, but I just wouldn’t be in the mood]. It’s also amateur filmmaking when something is revealed about a character because…they tell us. Show us, don’t tell us. It’s also rather silly to have characters sometimes making profound statements and monologues, instead of talking like real people. These characters just weren’t properly humanized.

We’re introduced to Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out), even though we never hear those names used in the film (movie titles that aren’t explained in the film always drive my wife nuts). 

It would’ve been interesting to watch these two find various hiding places among the black community, as they become folk heroes. For example, when they stop at a burger joint, they run into a father/son that idolize them. That’s because the dashcam footage of them shooting the cop proves they were acting in self defense. That just made me wonder why Queen, as a defense attorney, didn’t realize they’d have access to that. It seems that fleeing the scene would be the worst option imaginable. I get it, I get it. They’re black, they shot a white cop and yadda yadda yadda. But the amount of dumb decisions they make just keeps adding up.

One of the pleasant surprises is that this film isn’t just filled with a bunch of southern, dopey racist cops wanting to shoot at all costs. There’s a sheriff that helps them out (although when he’s kidnapped and his truck is stolen, makes you wonder if this duo is just stupidly adding more charges that will pile up). Another cop helps them escape (although he’s African-American, and just had a beef with his white partner). A few other police are shown in a decent light. That was all refreshing.

I loved one trip the couple makes to get a car repaired. The scenes with the old time mechanic (who tries lecturing them), and his son (who idolizes them), was interesting.

A scene where the couple stays with Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodine), who runs a brothel out of his house — was poorly conceived. 

There’s another scene that didn’t work, but mostly because I was distracted that the couple helping them, were played by Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and indie actress Chloe Sevigny. 

There’s a scene at a convenient store that’s perhaps the dumbest scene I’ve seen in a drama all year. Slim is going to hold it up to fill a truck up with gas. The clerk is a stoner dude who is mesmerized by the Glock he’s been shown, and asks if he can hold it (because that’s your first instinct if you’re being robbed). And because Slim isn’t really a criminal, he decides to let the guy hold it. 

By the way, early in the movie we realize Slim isn’t a bad person because….he prays before his meals, doesn’t drink or smoke, and his license plate says TRUSTGOD [side note: I hate license plates on screen that have more letters than are allowed; Lincoln Lawyer was the last movie I recall doing that].

Just as the couple should’ve realized the cop car would have a dash cam showing they were shooting in self defense, the clerk at the store would surely realize he would get into trouble for offering the guy free gas if he lets him hold the gun, and then holding the gun and handing it back and letting the guy go. Huh???  But I suppose the director and screenwriter just felt they needed to derive some suspense somehow.

I have grown tired of the racist cops as a premise for a movie. Two months ago we had this same premise in Black and Blue (which was awful, but a way better title). Recently, The Hate U Give and Detroit. Although last year, they knocked it out of the park with the terrific Blindspotting.

This movie was at least mildly entertaining. And I’ll give it an extra star for playing some Herbie Hancock and Lauryn Hill [on a side note: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the best debut records from someone that left a band].

The movie had good performances, the couple had chemistry, and there were a few comedic moments. Overall, the movie just doesn’t work. And I think the ending will frustrate everyone.

2 stars out of 5.

 

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