By Chris Campo
It's been safe to say for a while now that superhero movies have become their own film genre, especially with upwards of ten super-powered films releasing each year. Because of this, there are some who complain that the genre is getting too stale, and to that I disagree. I disagree because more and more films that feature characters with superpowers are going against the norm and trying to be unique, and that's exactly why I was looking forward to Sleight.
Sleight stars Jacob Latimore as Bo, who is a twenty-something magician trying to make his sister's (Storm Reid) life better after the recent death of their parents. While performing his magic tricks for a couple of bucks, he meets Holly (Seychelle Gabriel), and they soon fall for each other, growing closer and closer. To earn more money, certainly more than he would as a magician, by night Bo works for Angelo (Dule Hill) as a drug dealer throughout a large part of Los Angeles. When Angelo asks Bo to bite off more than he can chew, Bo must use his telekinesis powers to make everything right and escape the drug dealing life.
I was unsure what to think when going into Sleight. While I didn't really pay attention to the promotional material, I also didn't want to waste money seeing the awful-looking The Circle this weekend (JACK NOTE: Out now in the US. Hitting Australian theatres July 13 - expect my review up around then). So, I thought I'd check out this smaller film and boy, I am glad I did. Sleight is a smart, slow and powerful film. On the poster it's billed as "Chronicle meets Iron Man", but that's not the case. Its much more dramatic than both films and it's way smarter than Chronicle. This movie is Dope with superpowers, albeit not as fun as Dope, but it's not trying to be.
Sleight is trying to tell a serious story, and even though it can feel a bit familiar, it succeeds. Its central story is grounded in the real world; a story we've seen before, but with a sci-fi aspect keeping it fresh. I won't spoil what, but they give a very unique explanation for why Bo has his powers. It's impossible, obviously, but easy to buy into. They also tie his powers into his love of magic, and there are a lot of cool things the filmmakers do with the "magic" trick aspects of this movie.. Bo's magic is a part of him, and his love for it has tangible emotional depth. Bo is a very well realised character and his arc is very exciting to see unfold.
Jacob Latimore portrays Bo, and I believe I have witnessed the birth of a star. Latimore takes control of every scene with a commanding presence and charm to spare. Hollywood, don't mess this up, put this kid in everything. The whole film rests on his shoulders, but he has telekinesis, so it's no problem for him. Another fine performance is given by Seychelle Gabriel. She's mostly known as a television actress, but I, for one, would greatly appreciate seeing her pop up in more films as well. Unfortunately, other performances aren't nearly as well. Most of the supporting characters aren't bad, but come off as amateur, and Dule Hail is sadly overacting in most of his scenes. For what it's worth, Storm Reid delivers the uncommon good child performance.
Sleight has a very small budget. $250,000 to be exact, according to Box Office Mojo. For a film about a character with superpowers, you'd think that the micro-budget would be a huge problem, but it's not totally. When the film does show off Bo's powers, it looks great. He moves objects and stops bullets in mid air, and it's really convincing. The film does suffer from not being able to explore his powers as deeply as they'd want, and you can feel the director's want for a higher budget in the final act. While I did think the finale was an emotionally satisfying and cool ending to the story, the battle itself feels a little anti-climatic. Not completely anti-climactic, but a little. It'll excite you, but leave you wishing you saw Bo kick a little more ass.
Sleight was a pleasant surprise, making for a really great time in the theater. It's incredible how far they go with the little budget they had, hopefully inspiring a new wave of filmmakers to attempt comic book style films without millions of dollars. There's a great story surrounding the concept, flipping a typical drug storyline on its head in a smart and clever way. Definitely seek this out, it's not playing in too many theatres (JACK NOTE: a total of zero here in Australia), but it'll be worth a search, even if you wait for the blu-ray. Just see it.
3 1/2 Stars
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