One look at the poster for END OF THE ROAD, Netflix’s newest movie release, and you already know exactly the kind of movie you’re going to get: car chases, one-liners, big bags of cash, and ruthless racist rednecks, all mixed in with a healthy dollop of desperate-mother-protecting-her-children. And yet even though Queen Latifah’s newest outing is very much your typical action thriller, it somehow also manages to be quite a bit more than that.
Much of the credit goes to director Millicent Shelton, who takes a ho-hum, been-there-done-that premise (working-class family finds a bag of money and is chased by bad guys) and turns it into an effective and highly enjoyable action thriller. While END OF THE ROAD is only Shelton’s third film, she has directed dozens of episodes of TV, in any genre you might care to name: from horror (“The Walking Dead”) to action-adventure (“Supergirl”) to drama (“Scandal”) to comedy (“Parks and Recreation”). And her experience shows: Throughout its brisk 89-minute runtime— longer is not always better, movie producers!— the film is alternately thrilling, tense, and funny; in short, everything a Hollywood action movie should be.
Playing the put-upon Brenda, Queen Latifah is definitely the star of the show, flexing her dramatic muscles in the movie’s quiet moments and her literal muscles in the badass ones— particularly in an immensely satisfying campfire sequence at the end of the movie’s second act. But really, every actor on the call sheet is doing a great job here: Chris “Ludacris” Bridges is extremely charismatic (and funny) as Brenda’s feckless brother Reggie; and Beau Bridges (no relation— har!) is in great form as the kindly police officer who offers to help the family. Rounding out the cast are Mychala Lee and Shaun Dixon, who both do solid work as Brenda’s kids Kelly and Cam. (In a genre usually plagued by annoyingly precocious child actors, this is no mean feat.)
Never mind that the characters sometimes do stupid things; never mind that the dialogue can be exposition-heavy; never mind that some of the twists are laughably predictable; never mind that this is a plot we’ve seen many, many times before: END OF THE ROAD is so much fun you probably won’t care.
5 crowns: a must-see
4 crowns: excellent
3 crowns: good but not great
2 crowns: just about watchable
1 crown: avoid at all costs