End of the Road Review: Queen Latifah Leads Grounded Action Thriller With Heart


Netflix is no stranger to crime or action thrillers. Just earlier this year, the streaming service released Windfall, which saw a marriage fall apart in the midst of an odd home invasion. Then, the Russo brothers directed and produced the endlessly enjoyable The Gray Man, in which espionage and action were at the forefront of the plot. With such standardized action films, director Millicent Shelton’s latest comes as a welcomed surprise to revive the genre and ground it with great character dynamics. In End of the Road, Shelton transforms an already compelling script into one about family, motherhood, and survival. And it is nothing short of entertaining and refreshing.

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Brenda (Queen Latifah) is a widow, dedicated nurse, and mother to two adoring children, Cam (Shaun Dixon) and Kelly (Mychala Lee). After the passing of her late husband Jake, Brenda finds herself in financial decline and desperate for change. With her brother Reggie (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Brenda journeys across the southwest to move her family from California to Houston, Texas. During this long excursion, they witness a brutal murder at a motel. Even worse, Reggie steals a bag of money left behind by a mysterious crime lord known to New Mexico as Mr. Ross. With no one to come to their rescue, Brenda, along with her children and brother, must find a way to survive not only the ruthless desert but a serial killer too.

Queen Latifah and Chris Bridges in End of the Road

David Loughery’s script for End of the Road is the kind of story one would expect to consist of full action with a healthy dose of humor on the side. While he does incorporate the right amount of exciting sequences, Loughery holds back on the comedy and opts for a narrative centered around family drama and survival instead. With this unsuspecting approach to the film’s tone comes a naturally entertaining feature that includes many strengths and even fewer flaws. As a result, Netflix’s latest mystery/action thriller is one of their best original features that is as exhilarating and action-packed as it is contained.

Throughout director Millicent Shelton’s feature — which puts crime, mystery, and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons at the core of its story — is a very important narrative about the will of a mother. Through Brenda, single motherhood and the highs and lows that come with that are put on full display. Sure, the story is quite unlikely to occur for the average Black American family, but there’s a sense of honesty that is portrayed within this script. For example, Latifah’s Brenda goes through hell and high waters to do what’s best for her kids, no matter the price she has to pay for it. This accurate portrayal of the strength from a mother’s love grounds the movie even when it ventures off into the ridiculous.

Queen Latifah in The End of the Road

As with most crime thrillers and action movies, it often feels as if the performances need not be standouts as the momentum of these films tend to entertain on their own. However, in End of the Road, Queen Latifah reminds viewers of the triple force that she is from the opening sequence. As Brenda, Latifah is fierce, putting on a show-stopping performance and showcasing that acting is another seamless notch on her talent belt. Ludacris also stands out in his return to film since playing the character Tej in Fast & Furious 9. His chemistry with Queen Latifah is heartwarming and will remind viewers about the power of family. Lastly, Dixon and Lee are two stars in the making. They are excellent as brother and sister, providing the comedic relief that bickering siblings often give.

Shelton’s latest is a grounded action thriller that is heavy on the drama, pairing nicely with its frequent action-packed sequences. At its core, this is a narrative about the value of family, and Loughery’s script plays into it nicely as the story unfolds. Rich with endless entertaining and heartwarming moments, End of the Road appropriately plays into its strengths while leaving plenty of room to keep audiences guessing. With stellar performances from the cast and a sufficient balance between heart and thrills, this is the kind of movie that is perfect for a weekend with family.

End of the Road released on Netflix September 9. The film is 89 minutes and rated R for some strong/bloody violence, drug use, sexual content, and language.

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