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Big, charismatic performances and exuberant energy keep this movie on the road. It’s a serio-comic Bonnie-and-Clyde adventure, written by Lena Waithe and James Frey (still notorious for his faux memoir A Million Little Pieces) and directed by former music video specialist Melinda Matsoukas.
Daniel Kaluuya brings his seductive air of politely quizzical irony to the role of Slim, a guy who has managed to get a Tinder date with someone way out of his league. This is a beautiful, smart lawyer named Queen, played by Jodie Turner-Smith, who is richer and taller than he is – though this latter disparity is never remarked on – and only went out with him on a whim because his profile picture was so appealingly pathetic. Driving her home after their highly uncomfortable dinner, and having been icily assured that he can expect no sex, Slim is pulled over by a belligerent cop, notorious for his racism, and this jittery encounter spirals out of control.
This is a movie that is maybe not entirely clear what tone it wants to take with its audience. Sometimes it’s in complete earnest about the fact that Queen and Slim become a poster couple for anti-racism and standing up to police brutality. Sometimes, though, it’s a more nihilist, anarchic and ironic tale of a sexy couple who are by no means natural born killers.
Some scenes are worthy of Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino, especially when dopey Slim attempts to stick up a gas station using a cop’s stolen handgun. “Is that a Glock?” says the disconcertingly calm white attendant. “I’ll give you your gas for free if let me hold it.” Kaluuya once again demonstrates that gift for deadpan comedy he showed us in Get Out, as his character struggles to process how this attendant has failed to understand what is expected of him, and Slim even considers his offer of free gas – even though the point was that of course he is supposed to get the gas for free, and all the money in the cash register besides.
Queen and Slim doesn’t entirely work. The credibility factor isn’t too high sometimes and there are big set pieces that don’t gel: a sex scene showily intercut with a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration, for instance. Yet this is a punchy, watchable film with a nice cameo from Bokeen Woodbine as Queen’s disreputable Uncle Earl, and some great chemistry between Turner-Smith and Kaluuya.
• Queen & Slim is released in the UK on 31 January and in Australia on 12 March.
Source: The Guardian
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