Friday, July 21, 2017

'Sleight' Doesn't Misdirect, but Captivates

Sleight is the best coming-of-age genre indie film I’ve seen since Chronicle.  Now, by that, I don’t intend to imply that it’s as terrific and original as Chronicle.  Rather, like Chronicle, it is smart and opts to subvert recognizable tropes, successfully becoming a fresh and compelling take of a familiar plotline or concept, while the “low budget” factor noticeably works more as an advantage than a disadvantage, as it obliges the storytelling and performances to be more “focused”, finer.

It centers on a young street magician named Bo (Jacob Latimore).  After becoming orphaned, the role of supporting and taking care of his sister falls on him.  In order to do so, he turns to dealing drugs at night.  But when he gets in too deep, he has to depend on his wits and skills as a magician to get out of it.
Again, by mentioning Chronicle, I don’t mean that it’s essentially alike in theme and content.  It does have some superhero-ey, sci-fi elements and some exciting action moments.  But it’s more of a drama, really.  Also, it’s not twist-y like Now You See Me, The Prestige, or The Illusionist.  It’s not that kind of magician movie.  It has a straightforward narrative; it has no misdirection.

Sleight works best when it’s not hampered by expectations, especially based on its similarities with other genre movies.  By letting it be its own thing, watching it is a quiet but riveting experience.  It has no eye-popping set pieces, no out-of-nowhere surprises. Thankfully, its character-driven narrative is amply satisfying and intriguing to keep the movie generally interesting.  It also helps that Bo is an engaging character and Jacob Latimore had a strong, likable performance.
On a side note, Dulé Hill is in it.  His character, Angelo, is intended to be taken seriously.  His acting is great.  But I just can’t separate him from Gus, his wacky character in Psych.  Though he’s menacing, I just chuckled in amusement.

Sleight isn’t exactly magical and mindblowing.  But, overall, it impresses and captivates.

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