Queen & Slim tackles urgent, difficult subjects with bravery, care and adrenalised genre cool. But it triumphs because it shows you the personal toll beyond the politics. And how black lives brimming with potential can still turn on one fateful moment.
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What really buoys the feature is the acting from its two leads, whose chemistry absolutely sparks.
Matsoukas’ fast and furious filmmaking doesn’t always click, but it always crackles with purpose, refashioning the lovers-on-the-lam trope into an emotional black-lives-matter lament, and it deserves to be met on those terms.
Marked by a pair of powerful lead performances, Queen & Slim is a stunning feature directing debut by Melina Matsoukas.
When a movie taps a nerve with the public, it doesn’t need to be a masterpiece to become a phenomenon, which might explain why Matsoukas puts greater attention on the look, feel and musical signature of the project than she does the plot, which feels thin and familiar.
Queen & Slim is an extraordinary Black Odyssey; a film whose tracks reverberate with echoes of the underground railroad.
Queen & Slim is an African American art film channeling a 1970s blaxploitation, on-the-lam-from-the-law road picture vibe. As its riveting, rambling, geographically-inept two hours roll by, lurid visions of the blaxploitation cinema of that era bubble through an indie spin on “Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry,” “Sugarland Express” and “Vanishing Point.”
A less muddled, less self-conscious Queen & Slim could have been an indelible waking dream. Instead, it's hit-and-miss. But Waithe and Matsoukas are on to something, and it's the undercurrents rather than the filmmakers' more obvious exertions that hit the mark.
Queen & Slim’s cumulative impact mostly justifies the tonal inconsistencies, leaving the viewer with a troubling look at a society in which the marginalised always feel hunted.
Queen & Slim is convincingly and unapologetically multidimensional in its portrayal of its characters; as our perception of them shifts from one scene to the next, we realize they’re not ciphers for communities, cultures, arguments or belief systems, but individuals wrestling with who they are and how they present themselves to the world.