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Movie Review

It was a date to forget.

She had only accepted because, well, her client’s death sentence had turned her sour. She would ordinarily head home and use her well-earned defense attorneys salary on a bottle of good wine, but even that mode of comfort had lost its appeal. So, she took him up on his dinner offer.

For his part, he was eager for a little one on one with this aloof, long-legged beauty. Of course, once they sat down to eat, the conversation, or lack thereof, spoke volumes. They were about as in tune with each other as oil and vinegar. Sex was certainly not on the menu.

It was a short drive to drop her off, and he would move on. But life has a way of changing lanes, and one insignificant little missed turn later, a cop was pulling them over. And it was a white cop—a cop with a full head of lousy-day steam to blow off and a make my day frown written all over his face.

Next thing you know the guy’s yanked out his car and the cop is digging around in his car’s trunk. She, being a lawyer and not bparticularly happy with the cop or the world right now, starts loudly asking about a warrant and threatening to record everything with her phone.

A short, terrible chain of events later, the cop starts screaming and waving his gun around. She ends up shot in the leg. And the cop ends up … dead. Aware of the optics and the ugly racist world they live in, they run.

But run where? Who knows, they sure don’t. They just know they have to get gone before more angry white cops show up.

You can call him Slim. You can her Queen.

And now, Queen and Slim are on the run.

Positive Elements

As the film unfolds, we see that Queen and Slim have more in common than they thought. And as they begin falling in love, they each have something to gain from the other person’s character strengths. Slim becomes more level-headed about the world around him, more purpose-driven and more assertive in his decision-making. And Queen begins to see more value in family and God.

Queen, had a difficult youth, for instance, but she decides to visit her mother’s gravesite and remember the positives. And she rephrases something that Slim tells her, saying, “As long as your family knows you’re here, that’s all that matters.” Slim puts that idea into practice and calls his parents to tell them he loves them and that he’s all right.

Spiritual Content

Though Queen makes it clear that she doesn’t believe in God, Slim declares himself a man of faith. It’s a declaration the film emphasizes in different ways: Slim listens to gospel music to calm himself, wears a gold cross, prays before his meals and has “TRUST GOD” on his car’s license plates.

Slim also believes life is controlled by fate. He also believes that God kept him alive for a purpose (an idea supported by suggestions others make that Queen and Slim are a God-given inspiration to a struggling black community). Queen eventually asks to pray before a meal and—thanks in part to what she’s seen in Slim—expresses her gratitude for the journey they’ve been on.

Slim spots a cross hanging on the wall of a bedroom in Queen’s uncle’s house. And we see a cross hanging from the rearview mirror of the man’s car, too.

Sexual Content

Slim and Queen eventually fall into each other’s arms in the front seat of a car. Passionate kissing, removed clothing and a graphic sex scene (with sounds, movements and explicit nudity) ensue over several cutscenes.

We also see Queen and several other women in revealing outfits. Women at a beer joint wear short, lowcut dresses and skirts that reveal lots of skin and cleavage. Dancers in the bar grind against each other. Queen’s Uncle Earl is a pimp. When she and Slim show up, Earl and his “girls” take them in and give them aid. The various prostitutes in Earl’s house wear very revealing, sometimes nearly transparent clothing that reveals breasts, midriffs, legs and backsides. A local cop stops by to ask about one of Earl’s girls.

One of those women says that her family doesn’t care in the least what she does, “as long as it keeps me happy.” A man Queen and Slim meet talks in front of his son about the many “hos” he keeps and how he treats them.

Violent Content

When the cop initially pulls Slim out of his car it’s obvious that he’s a mean-tempered individual with no respect for property or person. The officer rifles through Slim’s car trunk, prompting Slim to ask if he could hurry up because it’s so cold. The man shoves Slim to his knees, holding a gun on him and then shoots Queen when she reaches for her phone. Slim tries to stop him and ends up fighting with the man and shooting him in self-defense. We see him dead, shot in the face and in a pool of his own blood.

Queen pulls a gun on another policeman to make a getaway. Slim accidentally hits a man while driving a stolen truck. While robbing a gas station, Slim tries to avoid trouble and lets a wild-eyed white teen hold his gun. The odd-looking kid says, “What is it about holding a weapon that makes me feel so alive?” He then points the gun at Slim with a deadly look in his eye.

Screaming and yelling protestors get into a physical pushing match with police. The cops shoot tear gas into the crowd. A black teen gets so enraged that he pulls a gun and shoots a black policeman in the face. We later hear that the shooter was killed for his actions. A stolen vehicle is set on fire.

Queen jumps out of a third-story window while escaping police and dislocates her shoulder. Slim helps painfully pop the protruding shoulder joint back into place.

[Spoiler Warning] Queen and Slim are both shot in cold blood while standing weaponless in front of a crowd of police. Queen gets hit in the chest, a red stain spreading across her dress. And Slim is riddled full of bullets while he holds her and walks numbly toward the police. He dies in a bloody pool.

Crude or Profane Language

Some 45 f-words and 30 s-words are joined by a handful of uses each of the crudities “d--n,” “b--ch,” “h---” and a--.” The n-word is spit out 10 times and God is mixed with the word “d--n” twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Uncle Earl smokes cigarettes. Characters drink beer in several scenes. Various locations feature tossed aside booze bottles and beer cans. A black bartender gives Slim a couple glasses of bourbon on the house, because of his “fame.” Slim says he doesn’t drink but downs one with Queen anyway. A guy shares a joint with Queen and Slim. Again, Slim is reluctant, but joins in.

Other Negative Elements

This film proffers a disturbing message: that murder can be inspirational if it’s a certain kind of “justified” murder. During their journey, Slim and Queen encounter an older black man who tells them that he fully supports their white cop killing. “This is revenge for the n--ger he killed two years ago,” the man assumes, proclaiming that their actions represent “power to the people!” Others declare that they’re inspired by the murder, too. One fellow says, “You’re giving a n--ger something to believe in. We need that.” A black policeman even lets Queen and Slim escape a search out of respect for their actions.

A young boy declares, “It’s an honor to meet y’all!” And he proclaims that no matter what happens to them, they’ll be immortal in the eyes of the community. He’s so infatuated with them that he later joins a group of black protestors who face down the cops, screaming profanities in their faces; and he becomes a murderer himself.

Slim and Queen steal a couple vehicles, rob a gas station and lock a good Samaritan cop in the trunk of a car. News stations mislead the public and declare that a murdered man was armed when he wasn’t. By the end of the film, a variety of black people, young and old, wear and paint billboard-sized pictures of Queen and Slim as a symbol of protest and solidarity.

Conclusion

When looked at with a discerning eye, Queen & Slim is a movie with quite a few problems. This well-acted outlaw love story—it’s almost impossible not to jump to a Bonnie & Clyde comparison here—is packed with profanity and bloody violence and some surprisingly graphic sexuality. But more worrisome still, is the pic’s foundational premise woven throughout.

Queen & Slim’s narrative confronts viewers with a well-defined set of assumptions when it comes to racial issues, namely that the United States is a deeply racist, hostile country filled with social outrage and injustice. For any of this film’s character choices to really resonate, to really make sense, that’s an assertion the film insists viewers must fully embrace.

The story seems to assume that white police officers are generally rage-filled racists, the kind of men who are prone to shoot obviously unarmed black people first and ask questions later. The story asks us to believe that a black female lawyer would have no hope of a fair trial in our corrupt society—even with filmed evidence of her innocence to support her claims. And the story wants us to believe that the black community at large would feel a deep sense of hope, inspiration and solidarity in the killing of a white cop.

This movie’s heavy-handed message with regard to racism and injustice is impossible to miss. That message may resonate with some who share its harsh racial assumptions. But it’s also a narrative that can be fairly critiqued for delivering an inflammatory, divisive message rather than one that moves our cultural conversation toward love, healing or genuine racial reconciliation.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Daniel Kaluuya as Slim; Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen; Bokeem Woodbine as Uncle Earl; Benito Martinez as Sheriff Edgar; Sturgill Simpson as Police Officer Reed

Director

Melina Matsoukas ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 27, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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This Plugged In review contains information about graphic sexual or violent content. It is not suitable for all ages. Reader discretion is advised.
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