Director Melina Matsoukas, known for her surrealist groundbreaking video work featuring Rihanna, has a stunner on her hands, entitled “Queen & Slim.” The film references Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” while delivering a fine character study of two young people as well as a damning indictment of police violence.
Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a lawyer meeting Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) on an internet date. They are awkward and agree to meet at a diner. While not smitten with one another, some rapport develops. After dinner Slim agrees to take Queen home.
Then an officer (Sturgill Simpson) appears in the window. He has a chip on his shoulder from the start and demands that Slim get out of the car. The officer then begins to frisk him aggressively. Out of nervousness, Queen exits the car, telling the officer that she is reaching for her phone. Fearing a loss of control, he shoots Queen in the thigh. In an instant, the officer and Slim fight on the ground. Slim grabs the gun from the crazed officer, shooting him in self-defense.
Panicking, Queen convinces her date to leave the scene.
Reluctantly, Slim does.
Slim and Queen are not killers but two average people at odds with their circumstances.
Slim is religious and wants to believe in the goodness of human nature while Queen is a harsh realist and knows inherently that the chips are stacked against them due to race.
The director provocatively shows Slim and Queen in a pose reminiscent of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the 1967 Penn classic.
In another scene, Slim and Queen emerge from hidden floorboards in the manner of slaves. The two are under attack in a real way, making the film a spiritual continuation of “Get Out.” A single shot of Daniel Kaluuya’s iconic face in disbelief and under duress is all we need to know. Both Queen and Slim know the way to peace but the white population in positions of authority are malevolent lost souls.
Matsoukas takes over where Jordan Peele left off.
Bokeem Woodbine’s cynical dialogue as Uncle Earl provides grim humor, not to mention Jodie Turner-Smith’s one liners that sting, containing hard truths.
We want Slim and Queen to succeed as they try to cope with circumstances that they could not and cannot control.
“Queen & Slim” is an emotive and visceral film that will grip you from the start. Rebelliously, Matsoukas teases the audience making her two protagonists not only sympathetic but also charming valentines who find themselves.
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