“End of the Road” could have been the next great roadtrip action-thriller movie — it has a stellar cast, including Queen Latifah and Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges, intriguing scenery and a strong premise. But the pacing and script ultimately led this Netflix original film to be 90 minutes of pure torture.
The film starts off on a sad note, as a recently widowed Brenda (Queen Latifah), has to relocate her family thousands of miles away due to financial troubles. She packs up the car with her belongings, her two kids and brother, Reggie (Bridges), and begin their road trip from California to Texas.
As the family drives through the desert, they quickly encounter problems. They are forced to take an 85-mile detour due to construction and end up in a racist town. Two white men flirt with Brenda’s daughter, Kelly (Mychala Lee), but after she is unreceptive, the men chase the family through the desert and threaten them until Brenda takes matters into her own hands.
By the end of the first day, they are tired and exhausted, and the family stays at a rundown motel in Arizona. In the middle of the night, they hear a gunshot in the room next door. Brenda, a nurse, and Reggie check out the situation, finding a dead man and a bag of money. This is where the film’s “action” and “thrill” truly begin — if you can call it that.
What is most disappointing about this film is its genuinely interesting premise — a murder next door leads to a grieving family of four being the next target of a crime circle as they do their best to just make it to their new home safely. The pacing of the film is too slow in the beginning, but just as the film becomes more tense, it seems to rush through the stronger scenes. The action is boring and appears sloppy — there really isn’t anything that sets this film apart from other movies. While it’s cool to see a car chase in the desert, it’s not anything different from other films with similar shots.
There are still bright spots. Queen Latifah’s performance as Brenda is spectacular. She perfectly portrays a stressed and grieving widow just trying to keep her family together despite the chaos. She shows her ability to play an incredibly dynamic character — from laughing with her kids in the car to chasing down a woman in the middle of the desert. One of the most intense moments is when Brenda tries to protect her family and delivers a tearful and humiliating apology to two men who don’t deserve it.
The family dynamic is also strong. Brenda’s kids, Kelly and Cam (Shaun Dixon), are convincing as angsty teenagers who are reluctant to move. Bridges’ Reggie is the epitome of the “cool uncle” character — he gives Kelly a puff of his joint and cracks jokes along the way. He is the comic relief of a movie that desperately needs some sort of escape.
The main twist of the film — the identity of the crime leader that is chasing the family — is disappointingly predictable. If Latifah and the other members of the cast were given a better script and better direction, this could have been an excellent film, but alas, it just becomes another forgettable Netflix original.
Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science.