Directed by J.D. Dillard
A young street magician is left to take care of his little sister after his mother's passing and turns to drug dealing in the Los Angeles party scene to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets into trouble with his supplier, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to rely on both his sleight of hand and brilliant mind to save her.
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★★★½ review by Dawson Joyce on Letterboxd
A promising debut from co-writer and director J.D. Dillard, Sleight is a rare but refreshing non-IP superhero origin story as well as a gripping crime thriller and a compelling family drama, with solid direction and performances, well-crafted visuals, and interesting characters.
★★★½ review by Jacob on Letterboxd
There are quite a few fumbles in the final act (disappointing for a film about a magician) and the screenplay could've used some more subtly, but this was still a very engaging 90 minutes and my favorite directorial debut of 2017 so far. Despite being made on a humble budget of $250k, I would easily believe that this film had a couple million to work with, considering how compelling the visuals are. The tricks and other effects were all pretty convincing, and the locations and look of the characters were perfectly fitting for the narrative.
What really sold me on this film were the characters, and how quickly invested I became in this young man's life. I really wanted him to be okay, and if there was ever a moment where I doubted he would be, I was on the edge of my seat, anxiously waiting to see how things would turn out. His girlfriend is the most adorable human being I've ever seen, and his little sister and neighbor are equally lovable. Though he makes some certainly unlawful and probably unethical decisions throughout the film, I never once questioned his actions. There was one particular moment of the film where it takes a sudden dip into horror, but thinking back on it, it did act as an effective turning point in the protagonist's situation.
Some of the dialogue gets a bit too obvious, and the film doesn't end in a way that feels entirely natural (or thematically consistent with the body of it), yet all the other elements made this a great watch. I look forward to seeing what J.D. Dillard does next.
★★★★½ review by Keith Adams Jr. on Letterboxd
Well, this was a surprise. A presentation of WWE Studios and Blumhouse Tilt, JD Dillard’s Sleight is a more grounded and realistic take on the superhero movie and is just as entertaining and exciting as one. In the film, Jacob Latimore (Detroit, Ride Along) plays Bo, a street magician who also works as a drug dealer in order to provide for himself and his little sister Tina (Storm Reid) after the death of his mother. It’s not a job he enjoys but his enigmatic and ruthless employer Angelo (Dulé Hill) pays him well and he’s able to keep a roof over his and Tina’s head without having to stray too far from the straight and narrow. However, when he causes trouble with Angelo and Tina is kidnapped, he must use his own talent for magic to save her and get out of the life once and for all. I never expected a movie made by the WWE to be this enjoyable and satisfying to sit through. Well, there’s No One Lives and The Call but this is totally different. Latimore turns in a breakout performance while Hill’s role as Angelo is on par with Albert Brooks’ performance in Drive. There’s not a single trace of Gus from “Psych” in this performance as he strikes a strong balance between charismatic and intensely evil. With the way that it ended, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to go with a sequel and considering how successful Blumhouse has been in the last 5 years, they’re good for it but if not, at least give JD Dillard a movie to make for DC or Marvel. He would make a good fit for a movie based on either “Static Shock” or whoever else Marvel didn’t make a movie of yet. This is a movie that’s really worth recommending so definitely check out Sleight.
★★★★ review by Jeremy Crabb on Letterboxd
A big surprise. Sleight is a well-acted, fun, and original movie, and while there are a couple predictable plot points and the ending is a bit rushed and anticlimactic, but as a whole, I thought this was a great indie with an outstanding performance from Jacob Latimore. If this one is playing near you, definitely check it out. I have no clue why this is getting just okay reviews.
★★★½ review by Mikey Brzezinski on Letterboxd
Sleight is a family drama crossed with a drug underworld thriller crossed with a superhero origin story and for the most part, it pulls off combining the three. Putting aside my handful of issues that this movie trips on, it made me so happy to see a $250k debut feature tackle the superhero genre in the quiet humanistic way that this does. It's a character drama first and an origin story second. The character conflict is built so delicately and intensely that when the film reaches its third act it feels remarkably satisfying (arguably way more satisfying than the bulk of third acts from the latest crop of CBMs) and with a runtime of only 90 minutes, it accomplishes everything it sets out to do in an efficient manner.
My biggest issues with the movie mostly spawn from pitfalls that a lot of amateur features hit (awkward bland photography, flat supporting acting) and there are some character moments that feel outright nonsensical. Sleight is certainly problematic but it's kind of a beauty to experience. The vision that J.D. Dillard brings to this genre is so fresh, ambitious, and cultured that I can't help but be very excited to see what he will do next with a bigger budget and greater resources. (7.5/10)
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