Review: SLEIGHT, A Different Kind of Magic Trick
Jacob Lattimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Storm Reid and Dule Hill star in J.D. Dillard's refreshing personal drama.
By day, Bo performs magic tricks on the streets of Los Angeles. By night, he sells drugs.
The year before, newly graduated from high school, Bo (Jacob Lattimore) had a promising future lined up. After his mother died, though, and with his father out of the picture, Bo turned down an engineering scholarship, instead shouldering the parental guardianship of his little sister Tina (Storm Reid).
He fantasizes that he'll soon earn enough from his drug dealing to buy freedom from his neighborhood. He even gets a sweet, supportive girlfriend in the friendly Holly (Seychelle Gabriel). She has a few problems of her own, though. That's not all; Bo's charming drug lord Angelo (Dule Hill) turns into a growling, menacing beast on a dime, quickly and steadily sealing off Bo's exit.
Darkness surrounds Sleight, written by Alex Theurer and J.D. Dillard and directed by Dillard. Bo is quiet sort of fellow, yet charming without realizing it. (He can't quite believe that Holly is drawn to him, for example.) He's not one to complain; clearly, he's learned not to depend on anyone else to do what needs to be done.
Because Bo performs magic tricks that defy belief, it's tempting to call this a low-budget superhero origin story, except that what appears to be supernatural is not. Very early on -- so this isn't a spoiler -- it's revealed that Bo has something implanted in his shoulder that gives him additional abilities as a sleight-of-hand magician.
At its heart, Sleight is an absorbing, compelling personal drama. Bo was born into circumstances that limited his options, but he made the most of what he had to earn an engineering scholarship. When his mother died, he accepted his situation as an adult, even though his turn toward drug-dealing reflected his youth and inexperience. When things get worse, he relies upon his own resources.
Director Dillard builds a sense of steady, percolating suspense, largely by guiding his likable leads through a minefield. Lattimore is more than capable as Bo, supported by a good turns by Gabriel, Reid and Sasheer Zamata as a friendly, concerned neighbor. Dule Hill, who I've known mostly from his sympathetic roles on television (dating back to The West Wing), makes the most of his cold-hearted drug dealer, stepping over stereotypes with his calm demeanor.
Sleight is a modest endeavor that unfurls with subtle intensity.
The film is now playing in select theaters throughout the U.S.