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Review: J.D. Dillard Makes Magic With ‘Sleight’

April 27, 2017
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We idolize the larger-than-life figures from the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes. As our world continues to crumble around us, we rush in droves to see these superheroes on the big screen, perhaps to escape the current predicaments of our own lives or maybe even with the naïve hope that someone will eventually come forward to save us all.

These studio spectacles, no matter how epic or robust, remain on a level of fantasy that we could never hope to attain in real life. But, what if you have to be your own superhero? What if it was solely up to you to create your own magic and save yourself? In J.D. Dillard’s directorial debut “Sleight,” we meet Bo (Jacob Latimore), a twenty-something Angelino left to care for his younger sister Tina (“A Wrinkle In Time’s” Storm Reid) after their mother’s death. Forced to walk away from his engineering scholarship, Bo makes ends meet by delighting crowds with his captivating and astonishing magic tricks during the day, and by selling drugs at night for the charismatic but sinister drug kingpin Angelo (Dulé Hill in a career shifting role).

Drug running as we all know is a very dangerous game. Bo’s world turns on its head when Angelo decides to promote him into the position of protégée. Hill shines here as the ruthless and emotionally even Angelo whose diabolical and violent nature comes thrashing out when you least expect it. As his responsibilities begin closing in on him, Bo realizes that there is only so much magic that he can create before he stops being able to slip away unscathed. Latimore’s enthralling performance recalls Tristian “Mack” Wilds’ Michael Lee in HBO’s “The Wire.”

Shot on an indie budget in just over two weeks while Dillard was still working a full-time job, “Sleight” is certainly a standout in a rather overcrowded genre. Still, it doesn’t come together completely seamlessly. Bo’s love interest Holly, played by the refreshing Seychelle Gabriel doesn’t quite get the fully fleshed out back-story that she deserved. Instead, she’s regulated to Bo’s helpmate making her an all too convenient stand-in mother figure from Tina. Likewise, Bo’s neighbor and voice of reason, Georgi, “Saturday Night Live’s” Sasheer Zamata isn’t given nearly the amount of screen time that she deserves.

Continue reading at Shadow and Act.