This was Day Two of “cramming an extra movie that will likely be squeezed out of theaters by Guardians in around IFFBoston”, and it was going to be a bit more nuts, except that festival start times slipped a bit as they do, and a Skype Q&A was added to the last film of the day, which made getting back to Boston Common for The Mayor or Battle of Memories at 10:40pm (and then taking a cab back home at 1am) impossible. My employers probably thank the festival for this.
For all that it meant getting up early on a Sunday and making a day which already had a bunch of going back and forth between venues a little more T-intensive, though, I’m glad I caught it. It’s got a few real problems, for sure, but it does a few things very well. I kind of hope that someone at Marvel has jotted down some names while the credits ran on this one. It strikes me that they could do a lot worse than hire J.M. Dillard to direct Storm Reid as Riri Williams should they want to pick up Iron Man with reduced involvement by Robert Downey Jr. backup after Avengers 4, even if that may seem a little bit on the nose.
Oh, and speaking of studios with (what you’d think would be) very specific products, this one comes from WWE Studios and BH Tilt, and while I know Blumhouse is not necessarily all horror, I don’t think this has any wrestling connection at all (checks to see if the big henchman in this film is a “superstar” - do they still call everyone that? - and nope). I guess it’s an acquisition title for WWE, but that just makes the company’s tendency to produce/distribute entertaining genre films that aren’t exactly on-brand an even more enjoyable curiosity.
Probably worth noting for context: At IFFBoston the night before, I saw Dealt, which is about the world’s greatest card mechanic, who can do some pretty amazing things with a deck of cards, so maybe my standards for card tricks were kind of high.
* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 April 2017 in AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)
As much as it's nice to see a movie that acknowledges that its impossible magic tricks are actually impossible, doing that muddies Sleight a bit,chipping away at the desperate underdog situation once its hero actually has to use his amazing-but-homebrew invention to get out of a bad situation in a climax. It's a good hook and nifty overall, but doesn’t entirely come together.
The street magician in this case is Bo (Jacob Latimore), a 19-year-old kid in Los Angeles who could have gone to college on an engineering scholarship, but passed it up in order to take care of his little sister Tina (Storm Reid) after their mother died. There are some perks - Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) dropped her phone number in his hat along with a couple of bucks, for instance - but most of his money comes dealing drugs for Angelo (Dulé Hill). Unfortunately, he does it a bit too well, so despite his efforts to avoid the violent side of the business, Angelo takes Bo along to confront Maurice (Mane Andrew), who has set up operations on Angelo’s turf. That starts a spiral that will be difficult to escape, even with the secret weapon Bo has in his arm.
Sleight tips off that it’s got a fantastic element or two early on, so what happens later on isn’t a complete right turn, but it’s the somewhat conventional foundation that makes it worthwhile. It’s anchored by Jacob Latimore’s performance as Bo, a sheepish genius who keeps winding up in situations where one would expect more outward confidence. There’s no smirk when Bo is performing street magic, and the sequence where he apparently holds a gun for the first time as Angelo’s crew goes to teach Maurice a lesson is a fantastic example of someone clearly not knowing what he’s doing or wanting any part of it without it ever becoming physical comedy. There’s a wonderful decency to him as well as an ability to make bad decisions utterly believable and forgivable, youth in over its head without making a big scene of it.
Full review on EFC.