HOLLYWOOD─When was the last time you recall watching a modern-day version of the 1967 classic “Bonnie and Clyde” starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Think about it for a second. Yeah, there hasn’t been a movie of that magnitude until now, but with an interesting twist on the tale. “Queen and Slim” follows Queen (Jodi Turner Smith), a criminal defense attorney whose world is turned upside down when she meets Slim (Daniel Kaluuya), while on a date at an Ohio diner.
Smith is a standout in her breakout role, which I feel is being ignored by plenty of critics this awards season. It is indeed a performance that should be generating more buzz, particularly in the Lead Actor if not in the Supporting Actress race at least.
This is a character that is smart, witty, aggressive and a wild card. You might think one thing about this woman, and totally get something you least expect, but you believe everything that is thrown in your direction. That’s a testament to some fine acting people. Kaluuya equally shines on the screen as a man scared that chance moment has totally changed his life as he knows it. He’s seeking love, but never expected in a million years a chance encounter with a White police officer would make him one of America’s most wanted.
Yes, “Queen and Slim” tackles an issue quite poignant in America that some would like to ignore, but it’s part of our reality. Racism still exists; racial profiling is evident in the police force, so let’s talk about it. This tale flips things where the victim’s gain the upper hand on the threat and become outlaws as a result of it. So I’m not spoiling anything by revealing to the audience that Slim fatally shoots an officer and finds himself eluding authorities with Queen by his side along the way.
As a viewer you are forced to question your ethics and moral standards. Our prime characters should be seen as villains, but in some odd sense they are protagonists trying to escape those who we should view as protagonists (the police force), are seen as the enemy. Could this be a direct result of the constant headlines in the news of unarmed African-Americans being killed by Caucasian officers, who tend to get away with murder? That is a likely candidate, but let me be clear this movie is NOT to make cops the bad guy, but to place a spin on the Bonnie and Clyde element, but with Blacks in the starring roles.
This is a drama, this is a thriller and it’s a cat-and-mouse game where questions continue to arise as to rather Queen and Slim will get away or if they will be caught and if so, what casualties will transpire as a result. The script by Lena Waithe is fine-tuned to really focus on the evolution of these two characters, whose perception of themselves change with each run-in with the law they have where they’re on the verge of being caught. I mean you have Slim who think having a night on the town is a good idea, considering the entire world is looking for them.
Some would argue that is someone who is cocky or assumes the best way to hide is by not hiding at all. Director Melina Matsoukas does a fine job at her first stab behind the camera. There is a level of patience with the storytelling that conveys a sense of urgency, while highlighting the plight of a community terrified of the cops and why that fear is prevalent and ongoing in our society. I had a perception of what I was going to get watching “Queen and Slim,” but never expected to have the lingering emotions I had with this movie after leaving the theater.