It has been quite some time since moviegoers had seen a unique love story fueled with measured toxicity worthy of the tension-filled moments overcoming the big screen. Director Melina Matsoukas, working with a penetrating script by screenwriter Lena Waithe, makes her forceful feature film debut in the intoxicating fugitive fable Queen and Slim. Powerfully stimulating and contemplative, Matsoukas helms a thrilling on-the-run romancer engineered by its potency of affection, anger, affliction, and alienation. Queen and Slim is piercingly telling in its truth about the societal cocktail of chaos that can befall the terminally marginalized targets.
Matsoukas spins an impressive tale of black-oriented devotion and desire in an explosive entertaining hybrid that recalls a stirring combination of Bonnie & Clyde meets True Romance. Matsoukas’ theatrical vision regarding a disenfranchised couple of color on the lam is utterly intriguing as it invites all kinds of introspective commentary about the turbulent times concerning police brutality and the corrosive consequences that affect the disillusioned public–particularly urban black folks at the mercy of such reprehensible misconduct by misguided badged officials. As an ambitious film project, Queen and Slim is a resounding endeavor for the creative Matsoukas known solely for her Formation video and Lemonade TV special that showcased the expressive artistry of musical mainstay Beyonce.
Get Out Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith (making a sensational film acting debut) star as the film’s titular tandem trying to stay ahead of the breakout turbulence that erupts surrounding them. Kaluuya’s Slim and Turner-Smith’s Queen experience their first date together at the diner. Slim is an easy-going guy that works retail and maintains a spiritual faith. The sleek and statuesque Queen works as a criminal defense lawyer. What soon would spark their attraction is the adversity that awaits them when running into a twitchy police officer with a happy trigger finger.
The cop’s hostility with the daters results in Queen getting shot in the leg while Slim tangles with the overzealous officer. The heated altercation turns ugly as Slim ends up shooting and killing the cop in self-defense. Now the turmoil unfolds as Slim and Queen–now facing certain scrutiny–have no other choice but to flee and avoid being captured until that figure out how to escape the serious messiness that is their dire predicament.
So Ohioans Slim and Queen depart Cleveland and head down south to Louisiana where they hide in the bayou region. There, the vanishing duo connect with Queen’s Uncle Earl (played wonderfully by Bokeem Woodbine). The question remains: can Slim and Queen mingle among the people in New Orleans before the authorities apprehend them?
Thankfully, there is some glimmer of hope among the ducking and dodging from the law enforcement brass. It turns out that the cop killing incident found its way on the viral circuit courtesy of the police cam footage. This is encouraging news for the kissing traveling twosome as they are now deemed justified heroes merely victims of unjust circumstances. Queen and Slim are vindicated in the eyes of a sympathetic nationwide community pulling for their escape.
Indeed, Queen & Slim is provocative in its touchy confines of a risky road picture mired in confrontation and controversy. Matsoukas does a resourceful job in creating a percolating heated atmosphere for the wronged lovers demonized by the suspect law that failed them considerably. Kaluuya, so captivating in the aforementioned Get Out and wickedly impish as the devilish psycho in Widows, delivers another fine performance drenched in uncertainty and quieted outrage. Plus, Turner-Smith is a refreshing revelation as the exotic-looking Queen whose tortured neck-to-neck affiliation with Kaluuya’s Slim is welcomed defiance at its meaningful core.
Distinctively rousing in its observational rhetoric, Queen & Slim managed to do what mediocre policing potboilers such as the generic Black and Blue fell short in accomplishing–offering an engaging scope of realistic rage about the complicated clashing between questionable policing methods and the deadly scrutiny these maligned methods hold on the jeopardized livelihood facing exposed people of color and the indelible psyche it taints with poisoned resentment and frustration.
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Flea
Runtime: 132 minutes