A sensational Bonnie and Clyde opus made to battle modern day racism.
There’s an African-American spin on the Bonnie and Clyde and “Thelma and Louise” renegades in “Queen & Slim,” a movie that continues to battle racism in the Trump Era. We meet Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith as a young couple on their first date, until they get pulled over by a white police officer who shoots the girl, and the boy kills him in self-defense. That’s why they need to go on the run.
We call them “Queen & Slim,” because the movie doesn’t reveal their names until the end. You gotta give screenplay writers Lena Waithe (“The Chi”) and James Fray (the author of “A Million Little Pieces”) for giving us some retro names, while balancing the premise and outcome to appease to both the African-American and white races.
Director Melina Matsoukas steps up to the plate by transcending from music videos to TV episodes to her film debut. She and the writers all electrify the audience by focusing on the two characters and their conversations and experiences. They never began as criminals. In fact, the girl is an attorney. And even as outlaws, they connect with one another. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith are both poignant, poetic, and just about perfect in these roles.
Each scene keeps you at the edge of your seat, and the suspense kicks in on whether the couple will get caught. The movie guarantees no happy ending, but it keeps you rooting for these characters, especially when they inspire others to fight against the racists cops in America. Of course, there are some African-Americans cops, who even grow sick of the stereotypes and discriminations.
And the levity is hidden inside all the dangers and conversations. Some of the jokes aim at the boy who eats a bit louder than the girl, as if it were his last meal, and how he finds himself in one goofy situation after another. When you’re in a big crowd of movie-goers, and I saw this movie at a screening, you know there are going to be laughs, shocks, and gasps, and they emerge when you least expect them.
The minor supporting actors in “Queen & Slim” include Bokeem Woodbine as the girl’s pimp uncle, whom she got off for accidentally killing her mother; Flea and Chloe Sevigny as the only white couple willing to hide them from the authorities; Jahi Di’Allo Winston as a kid inspired by the couple’s actions; and Sturgill Simpson as the white cop they killed.
From start to finish, this is is a nonstop thrill ride. It’s not a cash grab like Elizabeth Banks’ recent take of “Charlie’s Angels,” because it balances the conversations with dangers. “Queen & Slim” is made for Bonnie and Clyde fans, and for those who have the courage to battle discrimination.