So, I finally tore myself away from Persona 5 to go see Sleight the other day, and it has been rolling around marinating in my head ever since. I can’t decide if I liked or loved this movie, but I will say that I did enjoy it, and I think I might even see it again. Also, before I get too deep into this review, here is your obligatory spoiler warning.
Sleight is an interesting amalgamation of two very tired, and overused movie themes, the “get out of the hood” and “Hero origin.” However, Sleight did a really good job of threading just the right amount of tropes from both of those genres, while avoiding making it too cliché, or heavy handed. The story is about a young man named Bo, who has lost his mother and is currently raising his younger sister, Tina, by performing magic at the LA flea market during the day and selling drugs at night.
Now what was nice about this movie, is that even though the goal was to get out of the hood, and move to a better neighborhood, it wasn’t to get away from the local drug dealer on the corner, or because “The hood has taken so much from me, like my mom, dad, and my best friend who was supposed to get out but the hood got him when it should’ve been me.” While I absolutely do not want to trivialize the struggle that low socioeconomic neighborhoods present, it was nice to not see them bastardized to the point that white kids on Instagram feel accomplished for taking a photo in front of the welcome to Inglewood or South Central signs, as a trophy for visiting the “ghetto.” He just wanted to move into a better neighborhood, cause his little sister is a bright child, and he wanted her in an environment that would nurture her brilliance.
Then there is the origin of the hero side to this movie, which was even more interesting to me because it had many elements reminiscent of the way an Anime (Japanese Animation for the nontaku) hero story would unfold. What I mean by that is, usually with Anime, and its style of storytelling, the hero has usually worked at crafting a skill which they can do good with, they’ve already had the virtues and sense of responsibility already instilled in them, usually by past tragedy. Making the journey from civilian to hero about the situation, and finding the courage to use the uniqueness they already possess to change their world.
If you’re still struggling to understand what I mean, the short of it is, American hero movie: you have to be rich, struck by lightning, or an experiment to be a hero, then you find the virtues that go along with being a hero. Japanese hero movie: You’ve always had the hero in you, you just need the right situation, courage and conviction to bring it out.
Now the latter is what Sleight does and does it so very subtly if you aren’t on your game you might miss it. Sleight uses panning shots of awards and scholarships, a small workstation, the cleaning out of a wound, which could easily be misconstrued as a bullet wound and voicemails from his mother and mentor, to paint the picture of this clearly brilliant kid. Then through various magic tricks, you understand how skilled he is in magic. Though, it’s not till later in the movie that you understand how brilliant and dedicated he is when he reveals he grafted a magnet into his arm so he could perform certain tricks and the focus of his Hero abilities when things get real later in the movie.
I thought the acting in Sleight was very good as well, Jacob Latimore did a fantastic job playing a 20 something kid dealing with a situation evolving around him. The way he was cool, calm and collected when doing magic, and making drug sales contrasted with the uneasiness of dealing with the love interest and the ever-intruding drug supplier was a great natural portrayal, as opposed to the always smart and suave Tony Stark, or the perpetually awkward Peter Parker.
I also enjoyed the performance Seychelle Gabriel, who plays Holly, Bo’s love interest, put on, portraying an equally flawed, yet striving to be better, character. Even though I felt that she was waaay to understanding, to be realistic, and thanks to Get Out, since she was being so understanding, I was waiting for her to flash a DEA badge and arrest Bo at the end of the movie. For me though, the best job was done by Dulé Hill, who played the supplier, Angelo. He did a great job being a mix of comedic relief, while also being a decent villain, while not being a super villain.
I’m not going to give the movie a rating or anything because I don’t really care or judge movies on ratings unless it’s for an algorithm that takes the rating and turns it into more movies or shows I might like. Pretty much, did I enjoy the movie? Yes. Did I feel that I wasted my time or money? Nope. Would I see it again? I definitely would. If you’re looking for something new, in a hero/out of the hood movie, yet you require the familiarity of those two genres to get you to go the theater then yeah, I would highly recommend you go check out Sleight.