‘Queen & Slim’ is an All-Too-Conceivable Vision of 21st Century Outlaws

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CREDIT: Andre D. Wagner/Universal Pictures

Starring: Danielle Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Flea, Chloë Sevigny, Indya Moore, Sturgill Simpson

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for The Violence, Profanity, and Sexuality of Highly Stressful Situations

Release Date: November 27, 2019

Viral moments of people of color being fatally wounded by police officers are a depressingly common occurrence in America, and they have become fodder for similarly discomfiting moments in fiction. So when Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) is able to fire back at Officer Reed (Sturgill Simpson) during a simple traffic stop, it feels like a moment a triumph as a sort of wake-up call to the audience that things can be done differently. But that sense of triumph quickly gives way to a feeling of queasiness, both because no loss of life is preferable to some loss of life (even when it’s in self-defense), and because that moment feels much more like the prelude to a greater tragedy rather than the end of one.

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim are bound by circumstance moreso than passion or really any sort of mutual attraction. Their encounter with Officer Reed occurs on the way home from their initial meeting with each other, and while it may not be the absolute worst first date of all time, it is pretty damn tense. Slim is generally go-with-the-flow, while Queen is all coiled, hardened intensity. That fire and ice combination is not often ideal for romance, and it is even worse when two black people are pulled over by a trigger-happy officer of the law. Slim is so casual nearly to the point of carelessness, while Queen cites legal rights as she aggressively demands to know why the situation is being escalated. But no matter how they react to the officer, you get the sense that they were in a trap the moment he pulled them over.

After they leave Reed on the side of the road, they ditch their phones and attempt to flee to some semblance of safety. Meanwhile, their story becomes headline news and they begin to be embraced by a not-insignificant portion of the population as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Accordingly, you then get the sense that most of Queen & Slim is just a series of delays until an inevitable tragic end. In that sense, it plays like a fit of existentialism, sort of a more viscerally terrifying riff on No Exit. I cannot argue for the possibility of a happier ending, because that would have been something more fantastical than director Melina Matsoukas and screenwriter Lena Waithe are aiming for. As it is, this is not the most cohesive sort of cinema, but it has a fractured feel of intimate moments contrasting with wide-open spaces that captures a broken, but occasionally beautiful slice of Americana.

Queen & Slim is Recommended If You Like: Melina Matsoukas’ music videography

Grade: 3 out of 5 Escapes

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Overlord’ is Evidence That the Nazi Mad Scientist Genre is Still Relevant

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Pilou Asbæk, Gianny Tauffer, Iain De Caestecker, Jacob Anderson, Bokeem Woodbine

Director: Julius Avery

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: R for Soldier Profanity, War Violence, and Bloody Disturbing Mad Science

Release Date: November 9, 2018

It turns out that Nazism was never fully obliterated from the planet. Indeed, it’s 2018, and there are still people who are willing to self-identify as Nazis out in the open. So why shouldn’t there still be movies about evil Nazi doctors experimenting on people? They could even be set in the present day without straying too far from reality. Overlord, for one, is set during World War II, and the combat setting certainly cranks up the terror, but I cannot help but wonder if it would be even scarier if its characters stumbled upon a still-functioning Nazi mad science bunker in the 21st century.

What is striking about Overlord is its hybrid nature. This isn’t a war movie that turns into a monster movie once the experiments are stumbled upon. Instead, it remains very much a war movie even after the monsters start stalking around. The mission that sets off the action is an American paratrooper squad flying in to destroy a German radio tower in a church on the eve of D-Day. When they discover the experiments taking place within the church’s attic, they are steely enough to not be overwhelmed. They are freaked out, sure, but they still have to complete the mission. If they can manage to blow up the lab and save a little French boy while they’re at it, then all the better!

The experimentation consists of little more than inserting a serum into recently deceased soldiers, but things get really weird when the wounded-but-not-quite-dead start using it as well. The results of these injections manage to be so disturbing because they do not exactly heal any wounds but instead just bypass them. Supersoldiers are created, but they have gaping holes in their bodies and faces, not to mention the side effects of thoroughly oily skin and violently protruding bones. It is a credit to the main characters’ courageousness that they are able to behold affronts to nature and still plow forward with their mission. The message is therefore: the Nazis may be formidable, but we can still defeat them! Monsters exist, and we all need to be prepared

Overlord is Recommended If You Like: Classic mad scientist creature features, with maximum blood and guts and bones

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Serums