‘Sleight’ deceives and dupes, but not in the way you’d want

Jacob Latimore works some weak magic in 'Sleight'
Jacob Latimore works some weak magic in ‘Sleight’

Sleight can best be described as deceptive. Not because of its featured magic tricks or nifty card illusions. Those are mediocre at best. Sleight deceives you with the promise of a thriller with a magical twist but delivers a slow plot focused on an unfortunate drug-dealing teen. Oh yeah, and he also happens to be a street magician.

Sleight follows Bo (Jacob Latimore), an orphaned street performer who turns to drug dealing to provide for his little sister Tina (Storm Reid). Bo eventually gets in too deep when his sister is kidnapped and is forced to turn to his street tricks to get her back.

In his directorial debut, J.D. Dillard dilutes the potentially creative story by choosing to focus on the aspects of the story that should be secondary, creating a confusing experience for the viewer. With a name like Sleight, you can’t help but expect a movie like Now You See Me, albeit with a smaller budget and lower-billed cast. But much time is lost on the exposition and illegal aspects of Bo that the magic tricks that are supposedly essential to Bo’s character seem like an afterthought. Too much of the short hour-and-a-half film dawdles on Bo’s immersion into the drug dealing life that by the time he realizes he is in trouble the movie is almost over.

Latimore is likable as Bo, even though he is often more contemplative than active. He garners sympathy as the protective and caring older brother to Tina, his story is tragic rather than blameworthy. His girlfriend Holly, (Seychelle Gabriel), is just the opposite. Her bland personality is just a distraction from the action and it doesn’t help that the chemistry between her and Bo is nearly nonexistent (It comes as quite a relief when Bo is forced to cut his two dates with her short).

But as endearing as Latimore is, there are still elements of Bo that are frustrating. Bo’s dream, like most in his town, is to get out. But his romanticized talk about running away and making a better life for his small family doesn’t match up with the reality of life in his hometown. Bo may be an orphan, but his town seems far from a backwater hellhole. Bo has a house, a car, and apparently enough money to take a girl out to a classy restaurant for lunch. As a result, his dreams of “getting out” are more laughable than understandable.

Finally, to call Bo’s craft “magic” is simply misleading. While there are a few scenes with card tricks and illusions of the like, Bo’s main trick isn’t a sleight of hand at all, but rather an electromagnet he has wired through his arm to create the facade of levitation, the mechanisms of which appear more gruesomely infected than intriguing. It is this machine, rather than his hands, that ultimately gets him out of trouble.

Suffice it to say that Sleight does not live up to its name. Those seeking an action flick with stunning illusions and tricks should probably skip this one; you may feel more slighted than satisfied.

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