End of the Road

A dumb road trip thriller that’s actually fun.

The new made-for-Netflix thriller “End of the Road” looks and feels like a campy film, especially when the post looks bright and colorful. It’s obviously an imperfect film, as it acts like sitcoms and ripoffs of much better movies, especially since it’s directed by Millicent Shelton, whose TV credits include “30 Rock” and “Insecure.” But it is a campy movie that works, thanks to the leading lady Queen Latifah. I’ve seen her in two Netflix movies this year, starting with “Hustle,” in which she knows her mothering instincts, and tries to thrive on the drama.

Queen Latifah plays a widowed mother named Brenda, who must relocate her two kids-daughter Kelly (Mychala Lee) and son Cam (Shaun Dixon)-from Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges tags along as her stoner brother Reggie. Ever since their father passed away, they’ve lost the family bond, with only Brenda trying to keep everyone in check.

En route, they deal with some racist rednecks, who give them some road rage, and force Brenda to apologize for “reckless driving.” She reluctantly apologizes for the sake of her family.

Then comes an even bigger problem. At the motel they crash at, they hear someone shooting another man, and Reggie steals the man’s bag of money to set his family for life. That money belongs to the head of a drug cartel by the name of Mr. Cross.

“This money could save our lives,” says Reggie.

“It could end our lives,” says Brenda.

Brenda gets a phone call from one of the bad guys, who demand Mr. Cross’ money back. She agrees to give the money back with reasonable instructions, but these people are so angry and impatient, that they kidnap her son until she gives them the cash in person.

Brenda goes all “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Dukes of Hazzard,” while dealing with more racists, who sometimes act like “Mad Max” fans when they host their own raves. That’s when she goes “John Wick” on them, especially since her late father was an army colonel. He taught her well about fighting.

Trying to track down the family and the criminal is the old sheriff (Beau Bridges). He’s the seemingly nice sheriff, who’s been on the job for years, and knows the stakes.

Why would I recommend “End of the Road” which has its cliches and formulas? Because Queen Latifah carries the film with the right kind of attitude, heart, and persistence. Ludacris has a goofy and poetic appeal as her screw-up brother. The two young actors Lee and Dixon are both charming in their own interesting ways. And Bridges has fun playing a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sounds a bit predictable, but it’s just fun the way director Millicent Shelton films it.

Besides my least favorite Queen Latifah movie was “Joyful Noise,” which was on my Worst of the Decade list. That was irritating and depressing, whereas “End of the Road” actually has something worth liking. And I love when end credits songs feature Nappy Roots’ “Good Day” playing. That’s how you know the movie wants to have fun, even if it doesn’t think straight.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Streaming on Netflix

Categories: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

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