The jump from directing Beyonce’s music videos to helming her 2 1/2 hour first feature film seemed to overwhelm Melina Matsoukas resulting in an intriguing but uneven film. Hyped everywhere as a ‘black Bonnie & Clyde” which was kind of a spoiler as to how this thriller would end, but saying that this, and the opening scene, were by far the most convincing parts of the film.
It begins with the most unlikely Tinder date between an uptight opinionated lawyer Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a Costco sales clerk Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) in an old fashioned diner which she hates, but he loves. Nothing is going right but things are going to get worse when Slim gives the reluctant Queen a ride home.
Pulled over by a surly white cop for an alleged traffic offence, Slim plays it cool until the officer draws his gun and suddenly the situation turns scarily hostile with Queen being shot in the leg. A fight between the two men then occurs as each of them struggle for the gun and inevitable it goes off, and the cop is dead.
Slim’s instinct is to call 911, but Queen whose last client has just received the death penalty for a similar offence, insists that they will not receive fair treatment from the Authorities, so that they should go on the run.
As it turns into a road movie with the pair leaving Ohio and heading to Cuba via Miami, life on the lam is hot helped by the hostility between Queen and Slim. However this miraculously disappears one night off in a small local Jazz Club, and suddenly the couple, are in love. The switch although expected was still unconvincing even though at least they could now use their anger against the pursuing Cops and not each other .
It does also lead a to a very questionable piece of editing where some very passionate and explicit lovemaking was mixed with another scene of young black kid confronting an armed cop.
The couple’s colorful encounter with Queen’s Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) a New Orleans pimp was one of the most convincing scenes on the road, whereas the woefully underused Chloe Sevigny looked decidedly uncomfortable as one of the few good ‘white people’ helping the lovers escape..
This is Brit ex-model Turner-Smith’s first major movie role and her performance at times lacked confidence but Kaluuya as Slim excelled in his role as the reluctant runaway. And with Matsoukas in charge, the soundtrack itself, turned out to be one of the other stars of the film.