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edge staff writer


‘End of the Road’ a bumpy ride

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Every so often, a movie comes along that answers a question that you didn’t even know you wanted to ask. Many times, that movie arrives courtesy of Netflix, because with the sheer volume of content they push out, there’s more than a little “infinite monkeys/infinite typewriters” energy there.

For example, take “End of the Road,” the new thriller from the streamer. Directed by Millicent Shelton from a script by Christopher J. Moore and David Loughery and starring Queen Latifah, it’s ostensibly an action thriller that follows a road-tripping family as they get pulled into a murderous web of criminals and ill-gotten cash. I say “ostensibly” because, while that is certainly technically correct, the film manages to raise one of those unanticipated questions.

To wit: just how many over-the-top tropes clichés can one film family endure before we move from the realm of the thriller into the theater of the absurd? The answer? Significantly fewer than get thrown at Queen Latifah and company in these 90 minutes of escalating nonsense.

Brenda (Queen Latifah) is a single mom on the verge of a move. The medical care for her now-deceased husband led to her having to sell everything – including the family home. And so, she’s packing up her two kids Kelly (Mychala Lee) and Cam (Shaun Dixon) and heading to Houston to live with her mother. Also along for the ride is her ne’er-do-well stoner brother Reggie (Ludacris).

It doesn’t take long for things to go sideways. A lengthy highway detour leads to the family driving through some small towns with … let’s just call them questionable attitudes. Stopping for gas leads to a scary confrontation with some local yahoos, though Brenda proves capable of deescalating the situation without allowing things to get out of hand.

We also briefly meet a pair of shady characters out in the desert, thugs who are being tasked with delivering a duffel bag full of cash at the behest of a mysterious crime lord. One of the thugs decides to take the money for himself (we’ll hear more from him later).

When they stop at a motel for the night, they hear sounds of a scuffle through the walls, a fight that grows louder and louder until a gunshot rings out. Brenda, a nurse, hurries next door to find a man bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the neck (guess who!). As she frantically – and ultimately futilely – tries to save him, Reggie catches sight of the aforementioned duffel bag.

I’m betting you can figure it out from there.

They depart in the morning after speaking to the police, but when the head honcho – a cop named Hammers (Beau Bridges) shows up – he realizes that Brenda and her family might well become the targets of the enigmatic and dangerous Mr. Cross. But despite his best efforts, he can’t convince Brenda to return to his protection. It’s a choice she’ll come to regret when she discovers that Mr. Cross has a very long reach – one that can and will put them all in harm’s way. Harm that takes many increasingly outlandish forms, by the way, before devolving into utter chaotic lunacy by film’s end.

“End of the Road” spends its first 45 minutes or so as a fairly standard thriller. It’s nothing special, but neither is it offensive. Median Netflix fare – nothing wrong with that. However, the final 45 minutes are spent steadily adding to the pile of action-thriller clichés until the entire thing veers into the realm of the ludicrous (sorry Luda). It’s just one thing after the other, over-the-top twists and developments cascading across the screen. By the end, you’re through the looking glass of ridiculousness and you can’t help but laugh.

Seriously – I want to tell you about these things, but I can’t in good conscience do so. You need to see these things spring up in real time. Your eyes will widen and the corners of your mouth will curl into an unbelieving smile as you wonder just how they managed to cram so much formulaic claptrap into such a relatively short run time.

(Fine – I’ll give you a taste. Does Queen Latifah face off against literal neo-Nazis at one point? Yes. Yes, she does.)

As far as the performances, well … we’re probably not going to see any Oscar noms coming out of this one. I’ve long been of the belief that Queen Latifah is a very good actor, even before she was getting opportunities that allowed her to fully display her talents. Now, this movie isn’t a great vehicle (see what I did there?) per se, but she’s also shown a knack for this brand of broad appeal action – she’s a fine choice to lead the way. Ludacris (he’s billed as Chris Bridges, but come on – who are we trying to kid here?) tends to play variations on the same theme, but he fits here. The kids are fine – not spectacular, not off-putting – which is pretty much a win. Oh, and I’ll freely admit I exclaimed “Beau Bridges!” when he first appeared on the screen; he seems to be having a really good time.

All of this is to say that I actually had quite a good time with “End of the Road.” It’s an hour-and-a-half of hot nonsense, sure, but it was fun. Just turn off your brain and lean into it all – the hilariously leading dialogue, the transparently telegraphed plot developments, the out-of-left-field character choices … it’s far from great cinema, but sometimes, all you want is some junk food.

It’s a bumpy ride, but sometimes the bumps are the best part.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 12 September 2022 14:39


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