REVIEW: “QUEEN & SLIM” (2019) Universal Pictures

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Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) open our story on what is clearly a first date. She an attorney and he a passive religious type, not seeming to even have one single thing in common down to even the tiniest of facts that she orders a salad while he orders steak and eggs. When the eggs aren’t scrambled the way he ordered, she expects him to make a fuss to the waitress and when he doesn’t, she seems to throw shade not just at this fact, but that the diner feels ‘cheap’ to her. But there is more to this that meets the initial eye as he slowly makes his point to her. Not only is the waitress someone he knows from his neighborhood and single mother supporting her kids on her own, but the business is black owned, making the reasoning behind his choice much more than ‘cheap’. This is just the first thing that will make you start to take notice of all the little things that happen throughout this film.

We soon realize that this date is just not working for both parties involved and as Slim is driving Queen home, the couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when they are pulled over by a police officer.  What happens next will tear the fabric of your being completely apart as you watch with a feeling of being punched in the gut. As you see them pull over and stop for a small driving infraction, things quickly escalate with Slim trying to keep his calm with a cop who is looking for anything to arrest on as he yells at them to keep showing their hands and get out of the car. Instead, as Queen steps out, our trigger-happy officer fires his weapon hitting her in the leg. Slim jumps into a melee with the officer and as they struggle the weapon goes off killing the officer immediately. Our ‘first date’ has just turned into two fugitives going on the run – Bonnie & Clyde style.

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Without going into spoilers, this is where Director Melina Matsoukas guides us through their entire journey of life on the run. The setup is promising and both actors have enough pull to take you along for the ride. Where it fails at times during this run, is mostly in it’s editing and pacing especially past the halfway point. The movie feels about 40 minutes too long. In the beginning, the characters’ decision to go on the run feels very haphazard, especially considering Queen’s profession. Some of the main character decisions are remarkably dumb at times (a scene at a gas station will leave you scratching your head) and certain other side characters take decisions that are unlike them. The movie can be downright infuriating at times. It has so much potential, but with it’s slow pace it ends up not fulfilling the promise of what could have been a great fugitive movie with a strong social message – even though it legitimately makes you have a physical reaction to what’s happening onscreen. After all that, the movie doesn’t know what it wants to do. It’s plethora of confused dialogue coupled with amazing performances by the two leads make for a tolerable hour of entertainment, but way to long of a journey at 132 minutes of run time.

“Queen & Slim” might have a bit of modern day “Bonnie & Clyde” vibe to it, but this film speaks to our times. It can be electrifying, funny and honest – a film that will grab you along for one hell of a ride. Daniel Kaluuya continues to dazzle and Jodie Turner-Smith is not only simply stunning, but quite remarkable in her performance as well.  A very special mention to supporting actor Bokeem Woodbine who’s performance is unmissable as Queen’s Uncle Earl.

With the screenplay written by Lena Waithe from a story by her and James Frey, the movie is an emotional journey, while not perfect and a bit long, when considering the repetitive structure of the story, this IS a movie that everyone should see. To every single disenfranchised person, most especially those of colour, I’m sure this film hits hard and hits home and there are those of you that can easily envision yourself in their shoes.

Grade: C+

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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 21, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“QUEEN AND SLIM” IS OUT IN U.S. THEATERS NOW // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020

 

REVIEW: “AMERICAN MADE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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“American Made” feels like an honest-to-god Tom Cruise movie – like suddenly, his smile means something again. The man who has done truly his share of good and bad work in the past decade or so, (most recently the bad with ‘The Mummy’ ), shines in this film. Like it almost seems unthinkable after watching this film that it could have been done with anybody but Tom Cruise in the lead. These types of film remind us all, that Cruise is a really good actor and is clearly not done yet with bringing us the good stuff.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a TWA pilot frustrated with the grind of hopping from city to city, flying planes on autopilot and coming home to crash asleep before his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), can even put on her welcome-home-honey lingerie. It’s the late Seventies, the era of oil fortunes being made overnight and social turmoil being the norm. Barry has also been doing some minor smuggling on the side, transporting illegal Cuban cigars into the US. Into his life pops Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), the overly-eager-to-please-his-bosses CIA operative, who’s wanting to recruit Seal’s aerial talents to fly covert missions into Latin American countries and take spy photos of resistance movements. Not exactly telling his wife he’s actually left his job at the airline, he moves forward into his ‘new’ job as the CIA provide him with a sweet twin engine superplane, his own front company, and lots of money. Barry in complete shock as any of us would be, and can’t stop laughing in disbelief. And neither can we once you see the absolute insanity his journey takes him on. But yet, Barry Seals, was a real person and even though this film might be done up some with some dramatics I’m sure, it still really did happen.

You see what went on with Manuel Noriega (Alberto Ospino) (yes, the U.S. supported this man’s power at the time, yet eventually arrested him also – remember Imelda and the shoes 🙂 ), which then leads him to the Contras (again we supported) who it turns out are more interested in porn & alcohol than in being trained for fighting a war. So where do the guns go? Well only to the biggest cartel in the world at the time. The infamous Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) & Carlos Ledher (Fredy Yate Escobar), better known as the Medellín Cartel. Sound hard to follow – yeah maybe so – but as it really happened and with cut-aways to video-taped confessions done by Barry himself, we do follow how it went down. And there are points that you just can’t help but laugh with disbelief.

Along the way, you can’t help but feel flashbacks to Top Gun, they way that once again, Cruise handles this whole situation that is unfolding and of course the plane stunts. But it’s a good feeling – one that you makes you want more, a.k.a that Top Gun sequel that they are promising us now gives me hope. One thing is imminently clear here, Director Doug Limon has succeeded in giving us clear-eyed, in-your-face cynicism about this country and all it symbolizes not only then, but now, in bold fashion, all the while pulling Cruise back into being what we really want him to be – a good actor doing good movies.

Grade: B
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Media Review Screening: Monday, September 25, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
‘AMERICAN MADE’ is now playing in theaters nationwide