Overview: Weighed down by financial burdens, 20-something street magician Bo turns to drug dealing to make ends meet. When dealing gets more dangerous than expected, Bo is forced to take matters into his own hands. BH Tilt; 2017; Rated R; 90 minutes.
Not Just Another Superhero Movie: If viewers go into Sleight expecting a familiar superhero story, they will be disappointed. This isn’t a big dramatic movie. It’s a low-budget, quiet story shot realistically on the dirty streets of LA. Even Angelo (Dulé Hill), the drug lord Bo (Jacob Latimore) works for, isn’t the terrifying out-of-control caricature one expects. He’s deceptively kind and charming, inspiring Bo’s little sister Tina (Storm Reid) to say, “I like him!” after a tense meeting. Angelo is scary because he’s real. And though it’s a film about magic, one never needs to suspend disbelief in order to believe.
Above All, A Character Study: Because Sleight is such a character study, it hinges entirely on Jacob Latimore’s performance as Bo. Latimore isn’t a subtle actor. He is wide-eyed and transparent, stumbling over his words when he talks to pretty women and looking absolutely petrified while on a high stress drugs stakeout. With undisguised expressions and palpable emotion, at times if feels as if Latimore might be better suited for the stage than the screen. But because Bo is an unreserved character in his own way, Latimore’s performance turns out pitch perfect. Bo isn’t an understated kid. He’s a charmer, a sweet, wholly decent guy with a lot of drive and passion, and when he’s worried or afraid or in love, he gives it everything he’s got.
While Bo is a complex character character with genuine depth and nuances, his love interest, Holly, never seems to reach her potential. Seychelle Gabriel does what she can with the role, but the writing doesn’t award Holly much autonomy of her own. Every choice she makes is reactive, and her motive for getting involved with a man she finds is wrapped up in dangerous crime never seems clear.
Bo isn’t a hero because he’s born with powers or gets zapped by some cosmic storm. Like anyone who finds a way to rise out of unfair circumstances, Bo is a hero because he must be, because the lives of he and his sister rely completely on Bo stepping up to the plate and doing what has to be done. The desperation of Bo’s situation feels more and more hopeless as the film progresses, and because director JD Dillard has taken his time introducing this character,
Overall: More slow-burn drama than explosive thriller, Sleight relies on character beats and the push and pull of q-uiet, underlying tension to tell its story. At just 90 minutes, it’s a short one already, and most of the film is spent setting up just one or two final scenes. Still, this low-budget tale looks and feels real, Jacob Latimore’s Bo is unbelievably easy to root for, and those few big scenes at the end are really great. Sleight takes its time, and it’s better for it. The potential for future films is exciting, as Bo is a fresh and progressive hero that the world ought to hear more from.
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