At a loose end, self-confessed loner ‘Queen’ (Jodie Turner-Smith) swipes right on Tinder date ‘Slim’ (Daniel Kaluuya). Meeting in a roadside cafe, they have less in common than either could have ever imagined. However, when driving away they get pulled over an aggressive white cop, events rapidly spiral out of control in a night that will throw them together forever…
... sadly pulls up short of the greatness that its breathless departure suggested.
In Melina Matsoukas’s feature debut, ‘Get-Out’s‘ Daniel Kaluuya and Neon Demon’s Jodie Turner-Smith play two strangers married to misadventure. Starting strongly with insightful dialogue, high production values and fantastic acting, the road ahead seems clear for ‘Queen & Slim’. Mercifully slow for a film about two people on the run, the first act lets you understand them as believable characters with a cliché-defying setup and interesting backstories: Slim is a god-fearing homeboy whereas Queen is a dejected, yet ambitious lawyer. Where Queen favours luck, Slim believes in destiny.
However, as the second act pulls into view, ‘Queen & Slim’s’ road ahead becomes less straight forward. Barrelling down a number of lost highways when everything had previously screamed that they straight-line for safety, the script instead pulls them over for several unnecessary detours. Cars are ditched, clothes are swapped and with roadblocks puzzlingly absent, the middle act becomes a vacuum-packed edition of ‘Thelma & Louise‘. Similarly, in-over their heads, Queen and Slim discover that their escape has taken on a near-legendary status and like it or not, they have been conferred with the title of a modern-day Bonny & Clyde. All of which brings to ‘Queen& Slim’s’ final act and the film’s next tonal shift.
As the police eventually appear and their initial small act of self-defence becomes magnified out of all proportion, ‘Queen & Slim’ starts to channel the themes of ‘The Hate U Give‘.
With a string section score that reminds you of ‘Moonlight‘ and an even better compilation soundtrack to go with it, Melina Matsoukas’s debut sadly pulls up short of the greatness that its breathless departure suggested. Powered by two fantastic central performances from Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen and Daniel Kaluuya as Slim, ‘Queen & Slim’ is still a handsomely engrossing debut even when it gets fatally waylaid by its need to sightsee.
Had it kept its pedal to the metal it might have just avoided the yawning canyon of disbelief in front of it.