When you’re fifteen years old, the desire to fit in can be overwhelming. For some of us, if we’re lucky, that carnal need to seek out the opinions of others fades slowly as we move further and further into adulthood. However, in adolescence, that thirst for approval is often tied to brand name material objects. For 15-year-old Brandon in Justin Tipping’s debut film “Kicks” that material object is a pair of black and red Jordan sneakers; the originals.
Told with sweeping and surrealist cinematography that paints the picture of a practically glittering Bay Area, “Kicks” follows the idealistic but scrawny Brandon, who believes that acquiring these retro J’s will enable him to fit in with his friends and peers. Instead, he rocks some shredded (once white) Air Force Ones from his middle school days. (When I was growing up, we called shoes likes these biscuits.) Painfully shy, Brandon exists almost on the outskirts of his friend group. He’s content to sit on the sidelines while his homeboys flirt with girls and run up and down the sun draped basketball court. Fed up with being the underdog and with his lack of shoe game, Brandon scrapes together some money for the once unattainable J’s, which he purchases from the back of Crazy Daryl’s van. The new kicks are life changing. Brandon suddenly becomes wrapped in a feeling of euphoria, where nothing feels out of reach for him. Unfortunately, his joy is short-lived as he’s soon jumped by a gangster named Flocko and his crew; the fresh sneaks ripped cruelly from his feet.
The duration of the film follows Brandon’s desperate quest to recapture not only his sneakers, but also his perceived masculinity. Dragging along his best friends – ladies man Rico and self-proclaimed R&B singer Albert – Brandon travels from the Bay to Oakland dragging his cousins and his fresh-out-of-prison Uncle Marlon (Mahershala Ali) along on his dangerous adventure. As Brandon barrels forward blindly on his journey to be reunited with his Js, he’s confronted with the fact that all actions have consequences; a concept that often seems like an afterthought during our teenage years. Furthermore, the audience learns that Flocko has his own complex motivations for his volatile behavior.
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