Diablo Entertainment/WWE Studios/BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Universal Pictures
Directed by J.D. Dillard
Produced by Eric B. Fleischman/ Sean Tabibian/Alex Theurer
Written by J.D. Dillard/Alex Theurer
Remember the first time you saw “Unbreakable”? Remember that “oh, shit” moment when you thought you were watching one type of movie and suddenly realized you were watching a Superhero Origin Movie? Well, watching SLEIGHT is kind of like that. You think you’re watching a movie about a street magician/drug dealer trying to make a better life for himself and his sister. And then there’s a revelation about our protagonist where we see that he has a superpower. One he created for himself. And while there’s a lot of questions still to be answered about his superpower (or maybe I should say superpowers..but I’ll get to that in a minute) for me it most definitely puts the movie into the Superhero genre.
Bo (Jacob Latimore) is the guardian and provider for his younger sister Tina (Storm Reid) following the death of their parents. By day he’s a street magician, performing David Blaine-level magic tricks and some of them are so mind-boggling that there’s only one explanation for how he does it: it has to be magic. Bo does have an ace up his sleeve to assist him in his magic. He’s got an electromagnet that he built himself embedded in his upper arm. A brilliant engineering student, Bo had to give up a scholarship and drop out of school to take care of and support his sister.
The magic tricks aren’t bringing in enough money. Which is why Bo has a night job slinging yayo for Angelo (Dule Hill) whose affable, friendly exterior hides a psychotic soul. Bo is quite successful at juggling his double life until a rival drug dealer encroaches on Angelo’s territory and Bo finds himself being forced into increasingly more violent and dangerous situations as Angelo insists that Bo is now “one of his boys.” Seeking to get out of the drug business, Bo makes the mistake of cutting a kilo of coke with baking powder, trying to make extra profit for himself. Bad idea. Angelo finds out and demands that Bo pay him $40K or else. And believe it or not, things get worse from then on.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first so I can wrap up this review on a high note. First off, there’s a lot left unexplained about the electromagnet and how Bo put it in his arm. But the movie is clearly set up for a sequel so I suppose the writers felt they had to leave something for the next movie. I do like how Bo isn’t turned into Magneto. He can move small metal objects and larger ones as long as they aren’t too heavy and that’s about it. But that’s enough. There are some imaginative uses Bo puts his magnetic powers to use that demonstrates the character’s resourcefulness and smarts.
And I was highly intrigued by his magic tricks as there are some Bo does without the use of his magnetic arm and for me, I felt I was getting hints that Bo may actually have genuine magical abilities, especially after he relates a story to his girlfriend Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) about how he fell in love with magic watching an old street magician perform. That’s why I said earlier that Bo may actually have superpowers, remember?
The pacing of the movie is one that may make you feel you’re watching a movie that is far longer than the actual 89 minute running time but thankfully, the performances aren’t boring. Dule Hill is the movie’s MVP and if you only know him from “The West Wing” and “Psyche” then you might be shocked as to how easily he slips into the skin of this vicious drug kingpin. Know what his performance reminded me of? Remember that classic bit from Dave Chappelle’s show where Wayne Brady picks him up for a night of hanging out and informs Dave that he’s going to show Dave that he’s not as soft and square as Dave has been making fun of him on his show for being? And by the end of the night, Wayne Brady revealed himself to be an angel-dust smoking, murderous pimp who actually was so terrifying that people ran away shrieking when he appeared? Well, Dule Hill is like that here.
Sasheer Zamata from “Saturday Night Live” has a supporting role as Georgi, Bo’s next door neighbor who helps out by babysitting Tina while Bo is out selling drugs and serves as his conscience. They have an easy rapport together that immediately drew me to them and if there is a sequel I’d like to see their relationship explored in greater detail. How did Bo meet Georgi and what was it about her that led him to trust her with so much of his life?
So should you see SLEIGHT? It’s an interesting take on the Superhero Origin. Considering the ridiculously small budget there’s a lot to admire in what’s up on screen. The performances are solid and if you like superheroes but feel burned out by the Marvel/DC mega million CGI spectacles and want a superhero that’s a little more grounded and down to Earth then you ought to check it out. SLEIGHT didn’t hit a home run for me but at the same time I didn’t feel my time or money was wasted.