Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’16: Sleight
Misdirection is the stock-and-trade of a
street magician like Bo, but he has really just misdirected his life. He only
intended to deal drugs for a limited time, but that was obviously wishful
thinking. Fortunately, he has some skills to fall back on in JD Dillard’s Sleight,
which screens during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Bo had a scholarship lined up, but after
his mother’s untimely death, he had to forgo college to take care of his young
sister Tina. In addition to dealing Angelo’s coke to hipsters and yuppies, Bo
earns decent tips performing magic on the main tourist strips. One day, he
passes the hat and collects Holly’s phone number. She really seems into him,
even when Bo is called away from his first date to help Angelo with his turf
Apparently, an upstart supplier has moved
into Angelo’s territory, so lessons must be taught. Much to his shock, Angelo
has a game-changingly violent role for him to play. Of course, from the drug
boss’s perspective, it represents an opportunity for advancement, but Bo
recognizes a point of no return when he reaches one. Unfortunately, his plan to
extricate himself from the drug scene backfires quite dramatically.
Sleight is sort-of,
kind-of a superhero film, but it devotes ninety percent of its time to Bo’s
origin story. That is perfectly fine, but there are conspicuous credibility
holes pockmarking the narrative. We know Bo is a skilled pickpocket who has
flexible scruples when it comes to stealing, yet he finds himself bereft of fundraising
ideas when Angelo calls in his debt. Seriously, he can’t think of anything?
There might be plenty of grist for
pedantry in Sleight, but the young,
wildly charismatic cast still sells it through sheer talent. Both Jacob
Latimore and Seychelle Gabriel are major breakout discoveries, who forge
terrific chemistry together as Bo and Holly. Dulé
Hill also demonstrates hitherto unseen ferocity as Angelo.
Sleight shows all kinds of promise
in every which way, but Dillard and co-screenwriter Alex Theurer really ought
to have gone through a few more drafts. Regardless, Bo and Holly’s
mature-beyond-their-years romantic relationship really saves it. It is nice,
but not quite the triumph some are suggesting. Recommended somewhat
circumspectly for fans of magic and drug-related urban crime dramas, Sleight screens again tomorrow (1/28) in
Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Sundance '16