Movie Review - Sleight

Director and co-writer JD Dillard has crafted a poor man's Iron Man, or he's done an adaptation of David Blaine's life, if Blaine were an impoverished African-American living in the ghettos of Los Angeles. Dillard focuses on a young black kid who does street magic. I expected Dillard might do actual magic or something supernatural, except he doesn't. The crazy tricks like levitating rings is all science based. Dillard even explains scientifically how a magic trick or an illusion that Blaine did in a recent TV special is done. Dillard should be praised for doing what's so rarely done and that's make a film about a young black person in a drama and somewhat action where it isn't about the athleticism or physicality of the black person. It's instead about his or her intelligence.

There are films like Akeelah and the Bee and The Great Debaters, but those movies don't have a sci-fi aspect. This movie feels very much like a Sundance flick in the way that the January festival handles sci-fi topics. Yet, most of those Sundance picks don't feature black protagonists. The nearest, comparable film is Attack the Block, which was a British film that leaned harder on the sci-fi aspects than this. It was more a comic-book than a Boyz n the Hood. This movie is more Boyz n the Hood and less comic book-ish.

Attack the Block succeeded probably because of how it balanced its equation. Seeing black people lead sci-fi films or comic-book flicks is such an uncommon thing. Attack the Block took up that mantle. There are plenty of films about black people in the hood dealing with drug dealers and gang violence. Dillard's film doesn't balance the equation as well. It heavily favors that oft-explored  topic of black people in the hood. In that, the movie is predictable and rather boring.

The hook to this movie is that the protagonist is a young African-American who is a street magician. It's a good hook because seeing a young African-American or any African-American doing magic is also an uncommon thing. It's telling that the protagonist here has a poster of Harry Houdini on his bedroom wall and not Benjamin Rucker aka Black Herman, the most well-known, African-American magician.

Jacob Lattimore (Black Nativity and Collateral Beauty) stars as Bashir Wolfe or "Bo," a veritable orphan who is raising his younger sister. How this situation came to be isn't really explained. In real-life, Lattimore is 20-years-old. Technically, he's old enough to take custody of his sister, but the fact that he would without a steady job or would be allowed without any intervention is odd. Bo doesn't seem to have any other family, but that's not explained either. Given how smart he is, or his general disposition, his involvement with a drug dealer becoming one himself doesn't make much sense.

Bo is so smart that he is able to figure out how to give himself the power of telekinesis through science. Yet, the idea that he has an incredible brain but he doesn't apply it to any aspiration more than drug dealing is a shame on Dillard's part. Even when it comes to his magic, it makes no sense why Bo hasn't put his act on YouTube and why he isn't big on social media.

Rated R for language throughout, drug content and some violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.

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