While I enjoyed QUEEN & SLIM enough to give it a minor recommendation, mainly because of Daniel Kaluuya’s incredible fucking acting (he’s this generations Denzel, this man will eventually win an Oscar one day, believe you me), the motivation for the Queen character to make them both run away from the scene of the cop shooting (especially since it was recorded on the dash cam and you can clearly see it is self defense) dumbfounded the shit out of me. Especially considering her occupation (a respected attorney) and the fact that she reveals she got a black man off a murder charge before (citing it was an accident, and one could argue that their situation was an accident as well). I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Surely there could’ve been a way to get Slim off via self defense and even more so when they eventually find out the cop had killed an innocent black man before and got off scott free. But no, she makes them go on the lam, when he was wanting to stay at the scene of the incident first place. It just seemed to me to be a bullshit excuse to get the plot rolling, otherwise you would have no movie. Actually, not quite true, them going on trial could’ve been a fantastic legal thriller. Anyways, that main issue, another hiding out issue, plus a couple of weird comedic moments (with a story like this they felt extremely out of place) kept me enjoying the movie to its fullest extent. But their travels, the acting between the two leads, and the ultimate message of the film won me over in the end, but probably not for a second viewing.
If you don’t know the story (you could put my context clues together and figure it out) but two individuals (Queen & Slim) first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over. The police officer goes too far multiple times with the situation, is a white racist asshole, and ends up shooting at Queen, and when Slim gets into a tussle with the officer trying to protect her, he ends up with the officers gun and shoots the asshole in the head. Queen gets Slim to run off with her and they must find a way to keep one step ahead of the police and get out of the country (to Cuba). That set up is a great one. You have conflict, a strong message on police racism and brutality, you got suspense, making it look like self defense makes you care and root for the characters. So what exactly went wrong? I’d point it down to the screenplay having Queen’s occupation being an attorney. Her thinking in just running away from the scene makes absolutely no fucking sense whatever. The whole film I kept waiting for the true motivation for why she really fled the scene and the movie didn’t give it to me. In fact, it kept giving me reasons (combined with the one listed in the first paragraph) that made me even more dumbfounded than I was before. Took me completely out of the film. Her occupation led me to another problem I had with the movie. They go out and hide at her uncle’s for a day and a half. Her being a respected attorney, there is no way they could’ve gotten away staying there for that long. Especially when it reveals that the damn uncle was her first law case and she got him off a murder charge. Wouldn’t have the police looked into relative history right off the bat and sent troops there to check on the house? I mean, come on.
There are also a couple of comedic moments, one that takes place at a burger joint, the other Bokeem Woodbine’s over-the-top acting, that took me out of the film again. Those two moments just didn’t feel to me to be appropriate for the trauma that the two characters were going through. I understand those were created to have some comedic relief moments for not just the characters plight, but for the audience to also take a breather. What confuses me are that there are other, better little moments of lightness the characters experience, like at a dance joint and riding a horse, that fit in with the narrative more more perfectly than the other two unnecessary instances of humor. To me, those two parts could’ve been re written more to fit with those other “relief” moments. That’s probably just going to be my opinion on that though. You’ll probably find those parts hilarious and laugh your ass off. They just didn’t gel for me when I was trying to get into the seriousness of the central conflict. Damn, it seems like I’m getting on to this film a little too much, so let me quickly get to the stuff that did work. Most of the dialogue works very well, even if you didn’t have the excellent chemistry between Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie-Turner Smith. Lena Waithe, mostly known as an actress, proves that she has some pretty damn good writing chops, even with my conflicting feelings about the initial running away motivation of the Queen character. It actually tackles the message of the police “shoot first, ask questions later” problem enough to where it makes you think yet it doesn’t try to hit you over the head multiple times with it. The message also gets right that it can be ANY cop, not just white and racist. If the story had gone down the path of Queen & Slim staying at the scene and on trial, I’ll admit it could’ve went into that territory and I might’ve had a problem with that? It seems like you can’t satisfy me, right? That’s not necessarily true, Lena Waithe could’ve surprised me going down that avenue of the story, we’ll just never know.
Remember earlier, when I described the conflict I had with a couple of over the top comedic moments against the better lighter moments between the two characters? Those lighter moments are what made the movie for me. I won’t get into all of them for spoilers sake, but when these moments happen, the movie completely shines and takes it to another level I wish the rest of the movie could’ve been. But I reiterate, I did enjoy the movie enough, and the positives outweigh my dumb issues with the film to give it a recommendation. The film looks good, the cinematography is gritty yet gorgeous, and director Melina Matsoukas, known for episodes of Insecure and Master of None, knows how to perfectly frame a film and is clearly one of those rare perfect actor’s directors. This film can connect to a lot of people. It already has if box office numbers from this weekend prove anything (it did better than expectations). All I am asking for I guess was I would’ve liked a tighter screenplay with clearer motivations that made sense, and also some less ‘Get Out’ over the top comedic moments. Otherwise, you have a solid road trip thriller. If you have any interest in going on the run and joining Queen & Slim on their adventure, I’d say take the trip if you get a chance. Might not warrant multiple trips, but I think you’ll enjoy the ride for what it is.