Boy howdy is this movie getting some buzz. I mean, I don’t know the last low-budget indie film that was getting this raved about by critics, already claiming it to be the best superhero featuring a black hero. Jeez, guys. And yet, look at the early ratings from other sources. IMDb has it at a 5.4/10 (as of 4/26/2017), which is bad, and RottenTomatoes has it at a 58% (as of 4/26/2017), also not a good rating. So… who am I supposed to believe here?
The story looks like it’s about this street kid who performs magic tricks to earn a little money to get by and take of his little sister. But he gets involved with a bad crowd, it turns violent and deadly, and now he wants out. Turns out, his magic tricks may be super powers and he starts fighting back against those that threaten him. Were it not for the superhero angle, I’d swear this was another “from the ‘hood” story, so I personally am not super hyped for this.
Here’s the on screen talent. Starring, we have Jacob Latimore, known for COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016), THE MAZE RUNNER (2014), and RIDE ALONG (2014). In support, we have Seychelle Gabriel (THE LAST AIRBENDER  and TV shows SLEEPY HOLLOW and THE LEGEND OF KORRA), Dulé Hill (THE GUARDIAN , and TV shows DOUBT and PSYCH), and Storm Reid (12 YEARS A SLAVE  and TV shows CHICAGO P.D. and NCIS: LOS ANGELES).
Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is J.D. Dillard, known for short and unknown films. Dillard’s partner-in-pen is Alex Theurer, known for two episodes of INTERVENTION and short films. Composing the score is Charles Scott IV, making his feature-film debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the cinematographer is Ed Wu, known for short films.
Overall, I can’t get behind the critics on this one and say that I’m hyped. I’m really not. I’ve one too many “from the ‘hood” stories that it just looks boring with a hint of pretentious. But maybe I’m wrong. I do love my superhero movies after all, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
This is my honest opinion of: SLEIGHT
Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a nice kid. His parents passed away, but he’s doing what he can to take care of his little sister, Tina (Storm Reid). One way he makes money is through performing magic tricks on the streets. But unfortunately, he also does so by drug dealing for the local head honcho, Angelo (Dulé Hill). But as Angelo’s demands get Bo into more danger and asks him to do more harmful things, Bo is desperate to get out. After stealing drugs from Angelo, and Angelo finding out, Bo has to sell the drugs with interest: money Bo knows is a tall order. As the situation escalates, Bo needs to start making some hard decisions and possibly fight back.
Eh. It’s really not that special.
As previously mentioned, I’m not much of a fan of these types of stories. I could forgive it if the characters were at least interesting, but that’s not really what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, Latimore isn’t a bad actor here, but his character, Bo, is pretty dumb. First off, Bo didn’t sign up to hurt anyone. All he really does is sell drugs. He doesn’t carry a gun or any weapon on him. So why doesn’t he ever object to Angelo when he’s told to go on a stick-up? I’ll complain about Angelo in a minute, but I’m pretty sure that compared to Angelo’s other henchmen, who are brawny and psychotic, a nothing teenage kid doesn’t seem very imposing, nor would it be taken very seriously by his enemies. And a lot of the main conflict with the film is his fault when he steals drugs from Angelo. The man never gave me the impression that he doesn’t know how to look after his own shit, so why would Bo take that kind of risk? Desperation, I know, but that’s the story with every good-natured street kid who wants out of his shady employment, so he’s nothing new. So when things escalate and people he loves get threatened, I’m sitting here going, “Well yeah, you stupid shit, what did you think was going to happen?”
I promised complaints about Angelo, so let’s get to those. Despite that he’s a dude you clearly don’t want to screw with, I have a hard time believing that being the top drug hound in his neighborhood that he can’t afford more hired guns in his crew. I mean, from my memory, he’s got only two guys. You’d think he’d have more, or have the good sense to not bring in a kid with no experience in handling a gun, or really himself in a tight situation like that. It just seems silly and desperate, which strips away some of his imposing factor. He’s no Jack Nicholson from THE DEPARTED (2006), but he is saved by the fact that he is intimidating. I just won’t understand his need to arm a teenager on his missions.
None of the other characters fare much better. Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) is your generic romantic interest that supports him and Tina is the cute little girl who knows nothing of Bo’s activities. Again, she’s a goal for our hero, not a person with a clear-defined character.
How about the superhero elements? They seem a little out of place, actually. It’s entirely possible that this is one of those “suspense of disbelief” situations, but I couldn’t buy into any of what Bo was able to do. Some explanation. I had it wrong in my initial impressions from the trailer. I assumed that he did have superpowers, but used them to do magic tricks. I was very wrong. What he did was essentially put wires and a supercharged electromagnet in his arm, which allowed him to do the more impressive tricks, like moving chairs at a distance and making a metallic ring float without strings. We later discover that he was something of a genius in school, but due to his parents’ death, he had to drop out to take care of his sister. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the way they explain all this is both forced and a little too out there as far as execution of his “powers”.
I don’t think there’s much else to talk about. The movie, as a whole, isn’t wholly original, and there isn’t really a new spin on it that will stand the test of time. The actors are passable, even though their characters are bland or stupid, and the superhero toting is a little too out there for my taste to make sense, even in this established world. It’s not awful, but it’s not very good. I don’t recommend seeing it in theaters, or as a rental, but it’s not the worst investment of your time if you really want to see it.
My honest rating for SLEIGHT: a weak 3/5