All photos courtesy of WWE Studios/Blumhouse Tilt
JD Dillard’s directorial debut, SLEIGHT has been compared to Chronicle, Iron Man, and Dope. It’s more like a mashup of all three — a mashup that tends to have a hard time sustaining its flavor. Luckily, star Jacob Latimore adds enough charisma to the film’s fuel tank to make it entertaining enough to watch.
Latimore steps into the role of Bo, a street magician that wows bystanders in L.A. hotspots — like Larchmont, North Hollywood, and Universal Citywalk. He’s like David Blaine without the glazed over I’m-gonna-kill-you eyes. His busking is only one of his sources of income as he is left to take care of his younger sister Tina (Storm Reid). The other source is some good ol’ fashioned drug dealing. Even though Bo is an all-around good guy, but he has to hustle for the cartoonish drug mogul Angelo (Dule Hill) in order to make ends meet.
As in all stories like this, Bo ends up getting in over his head and gets into a bit of trouble which involves money, a kidnapping, and a threat on his life. In order to get out of this hole, he uses what he knows best: magic. But before you go rolling your eyes — Sleight isn’t cut from the same cloth as something like the uber-ridonkulous Now You See Me franchise. Instead, there’s Dillard and co-writer Alex Theurer created a story that doesn’t let the magic take over the entire narrative. Instead, it’s used out of thoughtful necessity for the character and the story. This, along with Latimore are strong points — but there wasn’t a magic trick big enough to bring elevate the movie’s flatness.
Sleight does its duty of entertaining the audience, but expectations shouldn’t be set so high for this action/drama/superhero origin story. Yes, this is an origin story of a hero. Sure, it may not be the typical MCU hero you’re used to but Bo is a hero nonetheless. Dillard created a very clever concept by taking two typical stories in film and mashing them together to make something new. On one side you have Bo, a street hustler with a heart of gold just trying to do what’s best for his family — a story that we have seen in one way or another more than once. On the other side, you have this super-talented kid who alters his body in order to give him extraordinary abilities. Yes, Bo’s ability to levitate rings and move isn’t magic — it’s science and engineering. He rigged wires through his arm with super-complicated technology so that he can have these special powers. In essence, he’s a cyborg… kind of like Iron Man.
His Magneto arm make for an interesting plot point, but throughout the entire movie that’s all we are waiting for: for him to use his super-cool magic arm. Everything else is very basic window dressing. His love interest Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) really has nothing else to do but to be the two-dimensional female character by his side while Reid is there just to be his sister Tina that is destined to be kidnapped in order for him to step up to the plate. SNL‘s Sasheer Zamata makes an appearance as Georgi, the template reliable neighbor with more sense than hero while Hill’s villainous Angelo is like every other cold-hearted, scene-chomping drug lord we have seen in too many movies in the ’90s. There’s no dimension to anything around Latimore. Still, he has a charismatic screen presence which carries the movie for 90 minutes — anything more would have been totally unacceptable.
Sleight will definitely give Latimore a boost when it comes to his acting career (God knows Collateral Beauty didn’t), but the film itself is a paint-by-number spectacular on a dime done considerably well.
Running time: 90 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Film Critic