• Sleight

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: August 1, 2017.
    Director: JD Dillard
    Cast: Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Sasheer Zamata, Storm Reid, Cameron Esposito
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    Bashir (Bo Wolfe) is the definition of a kid with a lot going for him. He's smart, he's got some unique talents, and he's received a scholarship to a prestigious school that will pave the way for a brighter future. All of that ends, however, when Bo's mother suddenly passes away, leaving him to care and provide for his young sister, Tina. During the day, Bo makes an honest but meager living as a street magician, dazzling passing-by pedestrians with illusions, card tricks, and other sleight-of-hand mysteries that defy explanation and fill his hat with monetary donations; but it's at night that Bo takes on a second job, one that allows him to save a large amount of cash and provide a safe and secure life for he and his sister.

    His twilight work, though, is anything but safe and secure. Bo's employer is Angelo, a notorious drug supplier, who has taken the young man on as one of his primary dealers. Stealth transactions on the street are Bo's specialty, allowing him to use his street magic to avoid arrest, and he also makes a solid chunk of change supplying his friend Luna, who in turn keeps the DJ's at her club swimming in coke and ecstacy. Bo's nest egg slowly grows, sunshine is on the horizon, and the icing on the cake is Holly, a cute girl Bo manages to woo with his magic act. It isn't long before the two are an item and spending more time together, a relationship that's coming to the point where Bo is going to have to divulge his secrets to her...like what he does for a night job, or why he has a giant hunk of metal half embedded in a very infected shoulder.

    Matters are further complicated when Angelo catches wind of a rival dealer selling rock on his turf, and uses Angelo to send a violent message, and the situation gets even worse when the boss finds out that Bo has been cutting Angelo's dope to increase his unreported income. Angelo gives Bo an ultimatum that he can't possibly comply with, sending the troubled magician down a path of stealing from his friends and using his magic for the purposes of financial gain at the expense of innocent people. With the deadline fast approaching, Bo realizes that the only way out of Angelo's grasp will come courtesy of his daytime wizardry skills, with some help from his old science teacher and his new girlfriend.

    Sleight starts off as a fairly compelling film with a likable lead in the form of Bo (Jacob Latimore), and a basic premise that the viewer has no trouble falling for. We appreciate that Bo has given up a secure future for himself in order to provide for his little sister, and the fact that he's doing it with street magic is quirky enough to be believable, and gives the film makers the chance to throw some nifty-looking illusions up onscreen to keep us entertained. By the time we get to Bo as a drug-dealer, we're a little put off, but the character has already been established enough that he's still endearing enough to follow all the way through. A few nasty enough bad guys have also been provided, like Dulé Hill and his henchmen, to remind us of our commitment to Bo, and even though he does some shady stuff, we still want to see him come out the other side. After all, how bad can a street magician with a kid sister be?

    The sticker here is the weird subplot that gets addressed in the beginning, and surfaces at the end, being that hunk of metal in the shoulder. Without getting into spoiler territory, it takes what came before it and turns it on its ear, and not necessarily in a good way. Writer/Director JD Dillard seems to be trying something different here...and good for him...but it's got more cons than pros. The premise of the reveal is mildly intriguing, but flies in the face of the reality that came prior. Is he trying to widen the road for a less stereotypical movie hero? Is this something that works for other people? All I can say is that it was a tough pill to swallow after having invested so much time in the characters.

    Plot twists and characters aside, the film itself is largely decent and competently handled, but suffers from some pacing issues, namely that the film goes from full-speed to full-stop and back again. When done effectively, this is not such a bad thing, allowing for a break...but the montages here, and there are a few, drag the film right down. Dillard has also gone for a look that some will not appreciate, and Sleight features some visually dark scenes, almost to the point that there's a lack of visibility of what's happening, and a distortion that it downright unpleasant. Coupled with that is a score that absolutely jacks the bass to a ridiculous point, making for a not-so-great audio/visual experience for a good chunk of the running time. Still, I didn't feel that Sleight was time wasted; and as a debut feature for a newish Director, shows some promise for future projects.


    Sleight comes to Universal Blu-ray (with accompanying DVD and HD download) in a 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks okay for the most part, but is hard to decipher as a result of the previously-mentioned dark and distorted aesthetic. Overall, you won't find any problems in this digital realm of dirt or debris, and despite the darkness, blacks are decent and lack crushing, with no other compression issues visible.

    The English DTS-HD 5.1 track doesn't feature too much in the surround department, opting to present most of the audio in the front section, but it does so well, with dialogue, score, and effects balanced nicely without distortion EXCEPT when the bass stabs pop up. I realize that you can adjust your setup, and did for this film, but for a subwoofer level that is reliable 99% of the time, Sleight is an anomaly that had me turning down the bass level to a less intrusive level. That quibble aside, Sleight sounds good with no hisses or distortion. English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Descriptive Video Service, and Spanish Subtitles are also available.

    Six Universal Previews are the only "supplement" to be found on this disc.

    The Final Word:

    Sleight will more than likely find a fan base, and this disc is an adequate way to see the film. It would have been nice to see some extras on here to get an idea of what JD Dillard intended to convey with the film, but with a somewhat moderate MSRP, it's barebones status is acceptable.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!