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End of the Road

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Undeniably a low-rent thriller, Netflix’s End of the Road throws out enough criticism of racism to light up the Southwestern sky. Mother Brenda (Queen Latifah) and family are moving from LA for Houston. Children Kelly (Mychala Lee) and Cam (Sean Dixon) with Uncle Reggie (Ludacris) are not keen at all about the move—they might have heard of the heat—and display the common stereotypes of annoyed, pre-teen and teen, and irresponsible, respectfully.

Although they meet other stereotypes along the way such as loud-mouthed white boys, corrupt lawmen, and drug lords, the real focus of the drama is the family eventually working as a unit to escape very dangerous situations, some their fault, others out of their control and in fate’s. Brenda carries the weight of family responsibility, now that dad is gone from them (and, my goodness, we are reminded of his absence too many times). She handles it well with training from her dad in combat both physical and mental.

Along the way, they’re treated to some Texas-sized bias and downright evil (a pile of drug money serves as the catalyst for bad on both sides of the law). No surprises in this predictable race, no insights into what makes red states run. Yet, director Millicent Shelton limits the time to 89 minutes, sparing us more cliches, and her camera work and lighting are unusually artful for a formulaic thriller.

Some effective notes creep in on the charm of family unity, once it arrives, and Queen Latifah comports herself well as the strong matriarchal single mom who doesn’t need to yell cliches to guide her family to that unity. She’s actually pretty cool.

No end of the road for most middling’ thrillers like this. However, rewards await those who enjoy seeing Beau Bridges go over the top as a dicey sheriff and Ludacris (here billed as Chris Bridges) does semi-comic semi well. Hell or High water End of the Road isn’t, but, then that Texas thriller had Jeff Bridges.

End of the Road

Director: Millicent Shelton

Screenplay: Christopher J. Moore (House Out of Order}, David Loughery (Fatale)

Cast: Queen Latifah, Ludacris

Run Time: R

Rating: 1h 29m

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com