Sleight is a subtle yet fully understood rift on the superhero origin story. Starring Jacob Latimore, as Bo, Sleight seems like it could be any coming of age story about a Black youth living a hard life in the streets. Bo is raising his sister the best way he could, as a drug dealer. Its almost a trope by now. A somewhat good kid makes bad choices all on their way out of their current situation. The added ingredient to the mix is magic, or rather what is assumed magic. Bo grew up fascinated by magicians and while his nights are spent slinging drugs to night club owners to keep their talent happy or kids trying to score on a date his days are spent hustling on the streets as a street magician. We learn how Bo does his coup de grâce magic trick of levitating objects early on in the film but the reveal cements this film in the hall of comic books origin stories, especially by the last scene of the film.
I can see the character of Bo fitting in along with Milestone Comics’ Static, Marvel’s comics Spider-Man (both of them!) and DC comics Jason Rusch’s Firestorm. To kick off the franchise, (I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel) Oni press has put out a limited edition comic by Ryan Parrott, Rob Guillory, and K. Michael Russel, that’s available for download that gets you up to speed and fills in some bits of backstory of the film.
Writer-director JD Dillard couldn’t have his debut film come out at a better time as a wave of new film and television properties are featuring Black, Brown and everybody else who might not have had a voice beforehand. Coming at the heels of Get Out, which is also a Blumhouse production, Sleight is at it’s heart a superhero genre film. Unlike your Ironman, Batman or even your Spider-Man films Sleight has real stakes that can speak to an underrepresented audiences. As a character Bo checks off your prerequisites, dead parents – check, hero complex to save his sister and protect his girlfriend – check, has a old white guy as a mentor- check. To this effect Sleight could be about any one of those other heroes mentioned but the slight, see what I did there, twist of the protagonist being a hoodie wearing Black kid gives something we’ve rarely seen until recently pop up. A story told from the perspective of a Black protagonist that can be consumed by anyone. To his credit JD Dillard has positioned this property to ride the zeitgeist of media presenting stories of underrepresented characters and has given this film room for a sequel. My only gripe is that the women of the film had no major arcs and were just there to move Bo along to the his journey. In an era where Black folks can be superhero magician nerds on film we shouldn’t leave the ladies out.
Sleight arrives in theaters next weekend April 28th, 2017
Sleight is a WWE Studios and BH TILT film, and Diablo Entertaiment production. Sleight stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Saheer Zamata, Storm Reid, Cameron Esposito, and Dule Hill.