The romantic comedy arc is also a more effective way of ratcheting up tension and suspense than any number of murders could be. Outlaw epics almost invariably end in tragedy; you can’t escape the long arm of the law. But romantic comedies are supposed to conclude with marriage, or at least a kiss.
Outlaw epics almost invariably end in tragedy; you can’t escape the long arm of the law. But romantic comedies are supposed to conclude with marriage, or at least a kiss.
By layering the two narratives on top of each other, Matsoukas makes it unusually difficult to figure out where the movie is heading. You root for the romantic comedy to win, but can’t tell if it will or won’t. Racism and injustice aren’t treated as a backdrop for action and violent genre pleasures. Instead, they’re an interruption, which threatens to derail the satisfying happily ever after the characters, and the audience, deserve.
One of the central moments of the film is the steamy first sex scene between Queen and Slim. Matsoukas, best known as a music video director, uses quick cuts to juxtapose the romantic consummation with scenes of a protest. Queen and Slim make love, while somewhere else, in the streets, black people chant “Let them go!” and the police menacingly advance amid clouds of tear gas.