“Queen and Slim”: Commercial and Contemptuous

Melina Matsouka’s “Queen and Slim” is much better in concept than in practice.  The premise of the movie is a take on the Bonnie-and-Clyde trope of a romantic couple on the fringes of society.  Instead of criminals, though, they’re martyrs of a corrupt system condemned to be eternally on-the-run. On second thought, the concept doesn’t even seem good—maybe it just resonated with what’s left of my tender feelings for postmodern hijinks. Anyhow, the movie’s just a kitsch pseudo-commentary, weakly upheld by alternately funny and flat schticks.

After a lackluster tinder date, Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) are pulled over by a cop-car for no discernible reason. The cop escalates the supposed traffic charge to an outright attempted assault when the racially-motivated cop pulls a gun and threatens arrest. In the scuffle, Slim accidentally shoots and kills the cop. Queen, a veteran attorney, heeds him of the impossibility of the case receiving a just decision in court. Instead of succumbing to the oppressive conditions of the system, they decide to make a run for it.

Their quest consists of a series of events which don’t have any urgency or propulsion. They just seem like check-points arbitrarily strung together in order to fill in a quota of screen-time. Queen’s emotionally-restrained, calloused character, a secretly vulnerable human hiding beneath a brittle exterior, is so unnatural and forced, not to mention overused. Maybe it’s the stilted dialogue which prevents an otherwise talented actor from fusing into her role. She doesn’t inhabit the role of her character; she’s trying to play what she thinks is the role she’s supposed to play. It’s so self-conscious you feel that Turner-Smith is confined by the straitjacket of her flat character. Daniel Kalyuuya is good at playing off even the cheapest of jokes, and despite the weak dialogue he comes off charming at times.

 

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