Queen & Slim, Universal pictures latest, has been compared to Bonnie & Clyde with contemporary black Americans instead of depression era caucasians but sadly it is nothing of the sort. Despite playing criminally fast and loose with history the 1967 Bonnie & Clyde is a clever compelling classic. Except for the first twenty minutes Queen & Slim is an abysmal failure. Come awards season liberal taste makers might shower it with praise but this disastrous excuse for a movie will soon be forgotten.
The film was conceived on a clever premise, what if two people on a first date commit a heinous crime that forces them to go on the lamb? Then on top of this was added an even more compelling layer: what if our protagonists are black and what if they kill a cop for a completely justified reason? This is the kind of premise that should write itself but unfortunately Lena Waithe (who won an Emmy for Netflix’s clever albeit ludicrously woke Master of None) fell asleep at the screenwriting wheel because there is barely any story here at all. Everything feels pulled from the identity politics tool kit. It’s full of nonsense like “My dad always said nothing scared white folks like a black man on a horse because it meant they had to look up at him.” I’m all for sticking it to the man, but ironically opinions like these are dribbling straight from THE LIBERAL WHITE MAN’s scrabbled brains. It’s a politically correct hack job.
The first twenty minutes are very tight, well written and competently directed. The protagonists, played by Jodie Turner-Smith (The Neon Demon) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), are quickly introduced via naturalistic dialogue. As the film opens they have only just met, yet the viewer senses the instant chemistry between them. On their way home a cop pulls them over for a predictably arbitrary reason and treats them with immediate hostility despite having no reason to think they’re up to no good. Slim is polite and compliant but Queen, a lawyer by profession, is noticeably annoyed with the cop’s brutish attitude. While the cop is searching Slim’s trunk and finding no signs of drugs, weapons etc Slim finally asks if he can please hurry up. The cop looks at him with shock as if this request were insane. Slim calmly replies “It’s just cold is all.” This is when everything goes wrong. Queen gets out of the car to film the cop with her phone, the cop panics and shoots her in the leg. Slim then attacks him killing the trigger happy officer with his own gun. The couple decides their best option is to simply drive away and keep driving.
But soon after this the film grinds to a halt that never lets up. This is ostensibly a road movie about two people on the run from the law, halting is the last thing it should do. I wish Jordan Peele had made this film. It had so much potential. But the remainder is a confusing leisurely stroll through the deep Southern United States as the protagonists head for Cuba, assuredly because “documentarian” Michael Moore told the filmmakers that the Communist country had an amazing healthcare system and of course no racism. It’s not as if Socialism ever did anything racist.
The film is bizarre and tonally confusing. It often feels more like a music video than a movie, which makes sense because this is Melina Matsoukas feature film directorial debut. Previously her career had consisted almost entirely of music videos and some television work. Again…this premise with Peele at the helm could’ve been amazing.
The strangest scene is a montage of the titular characters having explicit sex, cut against a #blacklivesmatter style protest in honor of our protagonists cop killing. The scene objectively makes no sense. The most important thing that occurs is a young black man shooting and killing a black cop who is trying to persuade the young man to leave peacefully. Maybe he’s supposed to be Queen & Slim’s cop killing love child birthed from their passion and that’s why the rally is interposed with their humping?
Filmmaking this stupid can only be tolerated at progressive film schools where quality does not matter at all. The only reason we’re given to care about what’s happening for the last hour and a half of this mind numbing quagmire is that the characters are black doing what we’re supposed to believe are black things. Considering my love of all things Southern that actually sounds pretty awesome. But unfortunately its just the magical negro fallacy substituted for plot and character development. Uninteresting characters are uninteresting no matter what their skin color.
Which is sad because if ever there was a “magical negro” it was Daniel Kaluuya. He has such a powerful and unique look. The hollow hound dog like gaze of a young Sly Stallone combined with the deep pathos of Forest Whittaker, without the over earnest hamminess of either. He’s a truly fantastic actor. Despite being given almost nothing to work with in this film he’s the solitary bright spot throughout. Even in truly bizarre scenes (at one point while holding up a gas station he hands his gun to the curious attendant) he still manages to be believable.
Unfortunately his pairing with Jodie Turner-Smith is completely uneven. Their initial chemistry disappears as soon as Turner-Smith has to do any complicated acting. Her part is poorly written so that doesn’t help, but so is Kaluuya’s. She’s just not in the same league and it shows.
The problem is that this film was grounded in a sermon not a script. A woke sermon about how American blacks are constantly under the jack boots of America’s cops. There’s even a scene late in the film where our protagonists have to hide under the floorboards vis a vis Anne Frank. If the story had been compelling up to that point it might have felt earned. But it never seems like they’re in that much danger then all of the sudden we’re supposed to buy that they’re in a Southern Schindler’s List? The place where black and minority democracy is thriving despite leftists constant fear mongering over voter suppression?
The truly heinous killings of black Americans by cops that constantly seem to litter the media are absolutely disgusting. It’s very unclear why a police officer would ever need to fire at a fleeing perp that wasn’t, I don’t know, Ted Bundy adjacent. There is a problem with cop violence and over policing, not the way it was prior to the civil rights movement. Cops are supposed to protect and serve us and they clearly shouldn’t be a source of violence. If this film changes any “pro cop” conservatives towards being more “cop skeptical” the more the better. Power, especially local power that possesses the sword, should always be held to account. But this film is far more likely to obfuscate the ongoing political divisiveness further convincing wokesters that there’s a black holocaust being perpetrated by our police when there’s simply no evidence for this.
The irony is that all the anti cop tropes heavily sprinkled throughout aren’t actually leftist PC messaging at all, even though they’re clearly designed to be. This film is set in America where the genuine Conservative tradition has never been about law and order but rather resistance to power and violence. From the founding fathers who seceded from the English Monarchy in 1776 to the Southern Rebels who left the Union in 1861 up to the anarcho capitalists and MAGA hats of our time American Conservatives have been against centralized state power that seeks to control citizens through coercion and violence. Conservatives accept the state as a necessary evil while real Libertarians long for right wing anarchy based in natural aristocracy. Either way the real American right is not automatically on the side of da po po.
Nixon, the eternal whipping boy of the leftist mainstream media, was by every measuring stick a leftist whose statist policies were continually opposed by honest Conservatives. Yet American Conservatives are continually slandered as fascist freedom haters despite all evidence to the contrary, whereas the Bernie Bro crowd’s favorite pet policy is a medical program that would universally remove private healthcare and force all Americans onto single payer. State sponsored tyranny is tyranny no matter what word we use to describe it and cops using their power irresponsibly to harass let alone kill citizens is repugnant to every American Conservative impulse. Resistance to power and violence isn’t leftist, leftists long to suckle on the government’s horrific teat.
Don’t waste your time on this piece of movie garbage, it’s a big boring mess. Instead stay home and watch Netflix’s excellent The Highwaymen which tells the true story of Bonnie and Clyde from the perspective of the Texas Rangers who were tasked with bringing down those psychopathic murderers.