On paper, “Queen and Slim” isn’t a new concept. The story of two people on the run after committing a crime been told many times in the past with films such as “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Thelma and Louise,” but Lena Waithe wrote a compelling screenplay that not only modernizes the genre, it touches on the societal plight of African Americans that is all too familiar.
“Queen and Slim” tells the story of an African American couple on a night out after matching on Tinder. Towards the end of their date, the couple are pulled over by a police officer for a traffic stop. Tensions escalate between the couple and the increasingly impatient, racist police officer which results in a struggle that leaves the officer killed and the titular characters in a literal race for their lives all before the opening credits.
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith provide beautiful performances in their respective roles as Ernest “Slim” Hines and Angela “Queen” Johnson with chemistry that flows like lava. Daniel Kaluuya displays his versatility as a dramatic actor who can have excellent comedic timing on a dime as his character is the more light-hearted of the duo. Despite having a slightly lighter resume than Kaluuya, as far as work and fame in the US is concerned, Jodie Turner-Smith is more focused on the dramatic aspect of the movie which she handles flawlessly every step of the film.
“Queen” is iron-willed, free-spirited woman who serves as the thinker of the group. She is the one who moves the plot forward at the beginning of the film when she suggests that they run together as far as they can go because she knows that Slim has no chance of ever getting out of prison if he turns himself in or is reprimanded.
She suggests they get help from her estranged uncle Earl, who is played by Bokeem Woodbine. Earl is a literal pimp who lives in a run-down house with several of his prostitutes. Though Earl is morally diluted, even he is hesitant to help the couple until Queen reminds him of a favor she did for him which is kept a secret from the audience that is later revealed in the movie. After a momentary pause, he gives them a car along with some money and an address of an old friend who knows someone who can lend them a plane to escape to Cuba.
Near the middle of the movie, there’s an interesting contrast shown to symbolize the divide of the impressionable nearly militant, younger generation is compared to the more passive, older generations who believe it should always be a citizen’s duty to have respect for authority. As most of the African American people, Queen and Slim have come across applaud them for standing up to police brutality while the mechanic, a middle-aged African American male, is far from impressed at their actions. Nobody is more starstruck than the mechanic’s teenage son, Junior, who admires them to near fanaticism. This has tragic results as Junior impulsively shoots a kind-hearted officer in the face during a protest held for Queen and Slim the next day.
I found it refreshing that “Queen and Slim” avoids completely painting white people in a negative light. Though a lot of racism portrayed in the film are acts from white people, there is a white couple who hide Queen and Slim in a crawlspace under their bed from police. The white man, Mr. Shepherd who is played by Flea, gives Queen and Slim information to contact a friend who has a plane to take them to their destination. The ultimate betrayal comes at the hands of a African American “supporter” of Queen and Slim who drives them to the tarmac, but gives up their position to collect a bounty from police which leads to the conclusion of the story.
“Queen and Slim” employs a unique form of storytelling with a penchant for voiceovers, strong dialogue, relentless action, compelling characters, and a poignant love story. I feel that the film avoids clichés and hits all the points it strives to. This is a film that doesn’t want to simply entertain you, it asks a very real question. Is law enforcement always the moral compass of society and if so, where do we draw the thin blue line?
My rating: 5/5
Featured Image: Courtesy Queen & Slim IMDb