A couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over.
Smart and subversive, ‘Queen & Slim’ is an original take on the criminals on the run movie, focusing on two African-Americans who are forced to go on the run after a police officer is killed during a traffic stop gone wrong. It’s a provocative premise and ‘Queen & Slim’ immediately sets out its intent to be a different kind of film by making its leads both guilty of the crime they’re accused of, yet also laying out a situation which leads to that outcome as a result of the racism displayed by the officer involved. We’d only just met Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) in a diner ten minutes earlier, where they’d first met on a tinder date, and their status as fugitives on the run occurs at the same time as they start to get to know each other.
This is an exciting piece of filmmaking from newcomer Melina Matsoukas that manages to tell a romantic story against the backdrop of some powerful and timely subtext about being a black person in the America of today. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith practically ooze chemistry in the leading roles and it’s clearly a matter of when and not if that their relationship moves on to the next level, enhanced by the dangerous circumstances they find themselves in. Obvious touchstones are ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ or ‘Natural Born Killers’, but there’s enough about ‘Queen & Slim’ to show it’s striking out on its own and using this type of story to delve into larger themes. It’s quite a funny film with several fun supporting performances as the characters they come across along the way, and that plays well off the central duo who seem to be the only one’s as concerned as they should be about their situation.
As their infamy increases and the search for them continues, the filmmakers start to widen their scope with middling results, with a protest movement started in their honour not working as well as the personal dynamic of their story, but the ambition is to be admired. ‘Queen & Slim’ is an entertaining crime drama with excellent talent both in front of and behind the camera, and this is a fresh and timely movie with a lot to say for itself.
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Flea, Chloe Sevigny, Sturgill Simpson, Indya Moore and Benito Martinez