'Chronicle' Meets 'Iron Man' Meets 'Menace II Society' in 'Sleight'

'Chronicle' Meets 'Iron Man' Meets 'Menace II Society' in 'Sleight'

Apr 26, 2017

Note: This article was originally published to coincide with the film's premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Sleight arrives in theaters this weekend.

The best genre movie at this year's Sundance Film Festival is surprisingly not screening in the Midnight section alongside the fest's most talked-about horror and sci-fi titles. Instead, it's part of the NEXT section, which over the past few years has emerged as Sundance's most exciting programming slate because it not only features films from emerging directors, but these films are also the ones that tend to take the biggest creative risks -- both in form and in storytelling. 

The movie I'm talking about is called Sleight, and it comes from Bad Robot veteran and first-time director J.D. Dillard. If you tossed Chronicle, Iron Man and, yes, Menace II Society into a blender, you might wind up with something like Sleight -- about a young aspiring magician whose loyalty to a menacing drug dealer is tested when he falls for a girl and wants out of the illegal business. 

What's real cool about Sleight is that its genre elements remain hidden for a great deal of the film. This is primarily a "street" drama about a good kid who wants out of a nasty situation, and as his story pushes forward, a different kind of movie emerges. Our magician, played by Jacob Latimore, goes to such lengths to create illusions that he modifies his body in an attempt to pull off mind-blowing tricks, like floating coins in the air. Eventually, his body modifications become a little more extreme, as does his beef with a friend-turned-foe, forcing his two worlds to collide in one helluva finale.

Sleight is a film that may not feel as fresh as, say, Chronicle, but its low-budget genre sensibilities mixed with more urban undertones speak directly to the sort of entertainment audiences are craving these days. J.D. Dillard definitely learned a thing or two from J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot when it comes to keeping some tricks up your sleeve and then saving them for the right moment for maximum impact, and he's the sort of director poised to go from Sleight to a shortlist for the next big superhero project. 

For more on Sleight, here's my 15-second review.

Categories: Features, Film Festivals
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