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“Queen Rising” Never Soars

Written by: Hannah Tran | June 17th, 2024

Queen Rising (Princeton James, 2023) 1½ out of 5 stars

For any low-budget movie to exist, there has to have almost certainly been a respectable amount of passion and dedication that drove it forward. Queen Rising, the debut film of Memphis filmmaker Princeton James, is undeniably an example of such passion. It centers on Madison, a teacher struggling to retain her childhood home, whose troubles seem resolved when she is offered a hefty book deal to share her experience of being directly affected by a string of murders during her college years. Despite its best intentions and killer intrigue, the result forces one to question if the effort is worth the result.

The problem with Queen Rising is partly that its voice lacks purpose and a sense of overarching direction. The genre and tone never fully come together. While there are a handful of horrific moments, it is almost entirely absent of terror or suspense. The thematic message is even more muddled. The characters often feel like stereotypes, and it is confusing to consider what their progression means in regard to the ultimate message of the story.

April Hale in QUEEN RISING ©Breaking Glass Pictures

The other issue is that the story feels in desperate need of additional revisions. The screenplay splits its time between the past and present, and neither are particularly captivating. The conclusion is extremely predictable, although it is one of the only moments with actual action, however corny it may be. The rest seems set on being your typical TV-type drama. It’s filled with talking, but the dialogue itself is often laughable.

This, of course, is a detriment to the cast. In the role of Madison, April Hale (Nightmare School Moms) has a likable demeanor, but she struggles in more emotionally-charged scenes. The supporting cast ranges from unremarkable to remarkably bad. The same could be said of the cinematography, which does almost nothing to beat the TV aesthetics.

Xamon Glasper in QUEEN RISING ©Breaking Glass Pictures

The drone shots and time-lapses of the city that are used as transitions are a major example of this. It’s less that they feel cheap and more that they feel superfluous. But, if it has anything going for it, Queen Rising clearly loves the city it is set in. It is inspiring to see a fully Memphis-based cast and crew come together for a Memphis-based story. If only it had more to say about the city and more to offer it.


Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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