Clumsy, disconnected thriller or sharp socio-political commentary? – Annenberg Media

On September 6, I ventured to West Hollywood to catch Netflix’s private screening of their latest thriller “End of the Road” at their swanky Tudum Theater. A few cocktails and several appetizers later, film critics, influencers and Netflix staff were all whisked into the theater from the lobby to see the film. As we settled into our seats, we were greeted by Tracy Edmonds, producer, and Millicent Shelton, the film’s director.

“End of the Road” is Shelton’s feature directorial debut. Shelton made her debut as a wardrobe production assistant on Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing.” She went on to do notable TV shows including “Everybody Hates Chris”, “Girlfriends”, “The Walking Dead”, “The Bernie Mac Show”, and “90210”.

Queen Latifah and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges appear as the anchors of the thriller, bringing their star power to capture the attention of a skeptical viewer and attract a diverse audience. The film is part of Netflix’s effort to bolster its lineup after a reported loss of more than 200,000 subscribers between April and July and a lack of diversity charges, with 300 employees (most of them people of color ) made redundant during the first quarter of the year.

In this high-octane action thriller, a cross-country road trip becomes a highway to hell for Brenda (Latifah), her two children, and her brother Reggie (Bridges). After witnessing a brutal murder, the family finds themselves in the crosshairs of a mysterious killer. Now alone in the New Mexico desert and cut off from all help, Brenda is embroiled in a deadly fight to keep her family alive.

The film opens with a view of a moving truck and a pissed off Brenda, packing up the remains of her old life and home after her husband died of cancer. In the film’s first scene, you’ll feel the tension of Brenda struggling with leaving her home and her memories, being financially unstable, and the stress of caring for her grieving children and immature younger brother. Brenda finally reunites her family, leaving Los Angeles to begin her journey in Houston and hoping to start her life over with the support of her mother.

Then things take a literal turn in the movie when Brenda and her family, the Freemans, stop for gas and snacks in the Southwest just before they reach New Mexico. As the tumbleweeds roll over the reddish dirt, the eyes of the local townspeople shine with contempt for the Freemans, as they are visibly the only black family in sight.

Fast forward to Kelly, Brenda’s daughter, obscenely called out by two white townspeople and the family driven off the road by them and forced to apologize for not tolerating their behavior, the plot begins to take a dark turn, racist and violent. . For many black viewers, it’s no surprise how quickly a seemingly enjoyable family trip could turn into a fight for survival and a matter of life and death.

The vast and arid desert landscape symbolizes the internal fears of the family. They are lost, with no cover and no protection from the increasingly terrifying threats that loom up against them, and they want to get out. There is no authoritative figure to help; if there is, it is corrupt. It’s a common experience for many black people living their daily lives in America and around the world. Who do we contact for help?

Shelton intentionally made “End of the Road” a social commentary on race, financial hardship, and a discussion of who deserves to be punished and saved in our society; however, it reads as awkwardly overdone. There are huge plot and character holes, outdated and predictable stereotypes, and ridiculous portrayals of neo-Nazi and hillbilly characters throughout the film.

Painful black female-centric tropes always save the day, even with a black male counterpart as a main or supporting character, are heartbreaking to see on the big screen, similar to the following characters: Celie (The Color Purple), Olivia Pope (Scandal) , Michonne (The Walking Dead) and Miranda Bailey (Grey’s Anatomy). Latifah’s character has been tasked with performing impossible feats on her own to save everyone else’s fortunes.

Latifah’s character is also an insufferable doer, even when it’s not necessary or safe. For example, she was checking on her neighbor at the motel after hearing gunshots. Why didn’t she call the police? Again, black women struggle with the inner emotional turmoil and guilt of always “doing the right thing,” even when our lives are on the line.

Cut to Reggie, Brenda’s younger brother. Reggie is the failure of the family. He didn’t make the best choices in his life, so now he’s complacent and seen as unreliable. Trying to prove his worth to his sister and to himself, he makes a selfish decision that alters the family’s trajectory, almost permanently, due to his lack of self-awareness and ability to think about the situation. in general. Black women know Reggie’s character a little too well, and it may trigger us to see him on the big screen.

It was sheer luck that Brenda’s clan got through the many obstacles on their way to Texas, and it was her tenacity, ability to make quick decisions, courage and integrity that put them safe. But aren’t we tired of saving the day, especially when we have a black man on our side to ideally balance the load?

Shelton’s directing choices allow the film’s protagonists to grow, develop and remember the importance of family, especially during turbulent and uncertain times.

She goes even further with wolves in sheep’s clothing. “End of the Road” made it clear to audiences about the internal struggles of black people when they trust the police and white people in general. You never know what you are going to get.

However, these redeemable qualities of the film are overshadowed by watching such remarkable, verified talent as Queen Latifah create such a one-dimensional and formulaic heroine role.

About Cecil Cobb

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