Sleight: the use of dexterity or cunning, especially so as to deceive
I first heard Sleight described as “Chronicle meets Iron Man“, which automatically piqued my interest as those are two of my all-time favorite films. Sleight premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and was released in theaters April of this year. In some ways it almost seems like an origin story for a new kind of hero from humble beginnings.
We’ve seen similar stories before; a bright, talented kid gets caught up in a life of crime trying to protect the people he loves. It’s been done so much and so often that it can seem like a predictable story, which is why Sleight is so unique.
Jacob Latimore (Detroit, Black Nativity) stars as Bo, a young magician doing all that he can to provide for himself and his younger sister. He’s a street performer by day, doing card tricks for eager tourists in Los Angeles. By night Bo works for a seedy drug kingpin named Angelo (Dulé Hill), whose violent behavior constantly creates trouble. The already tense situation implodes when Bo inadvertently crosses his boss. The magician must use his tricks and wits to save his family and leave drug dealing behind for good.
There are Sci-Fi elements present in the film that surprised me since I wasn’t expecting to see them in a story so grounded in reality. On the one hand, Bo’s talents appear to be surface-level parlor tricks, but by the close of the film it is apparent to the audience that his brilliant mind and abilities amount to something much greater.
Latimore is easily one of the best aspects of the film as he is both affable and credible in the role of Bo. The character is well-developed and I found myself impressed by the amount of potential he has. He’s a complex individual with a lot more going for him than a few card tricks.
The chemistry shared between the main actors is very organic; Bo is a father-figure to his sister Tina (Storm Reid) and their bond is quite special. He also begins a relationship with a young college student named Holly (Seychelle Gabriel). The two of them hit it off and I liked what her character brought out in Bo. They fit together well and even their meeting was natural and believable.
I admire the simple way the film’s director/co-writer JD Dillard told Bo’s story. It’s rare to see a person of color in a role like this one and even more rare that race isn’t addressed for a single second. I found that incredibly refreshing and it made me hopeful that we will continue to see projects created in a similar way. Dillard is definitely one to watch and the same can certainly be said for Latimore as he has been quietly adding solid projects to his repertoire over the last few years.
In closing, there are several stretches of time where the plot seems forgotten, but the action and excitement of the third act more than make up for it. I also had a few remaining questions after the film ended, but I suspect that was intentional on the part of the filmmaker. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers and/or superhero flicks I think you’ll find this film entertaining!
Sleight is directed by JD Dillard who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Alex Theurer. It stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Storm Reid, Sasheer Zamata, and Dulé Hill.
*FYI The film received an R rating as it does have strong language and some violent, graphic images not suitable for all audiences
Who is your favorite superhero and why? Let me know in the comments below!