Review: ‘Sleight’ challenges industry norms, redefines superhero genre

Posted on May 5 2017 - 8:00am by Anna Kathryn Hodges

Watching “Sleight,” written by J.D. Dillard, I felt that I was taking in just a small glimpse into a fresh approach to the overdone superhero genre.

With a total budget of just $250,000, “Sleight” proved that big, fancy special effects and flashy details don’t make a movie – the characters and their developments truly seal the deal for a solid storyline.

sleight movie

Jacob Latimore as Bo in ‘Sleight’ (Photo courtesy:

The movie’s teenage protagonist, Bo (Jacob Latimore), lives in a poor area of Los Angeles. He gives up his chance at attending college on scholarship to instead look out for his younger sister. Bo fights for their survival, performing magic tricks in the streets and slanging drugs, something he’s pretty good at. His talents gain attention from clients and his supplier Angelo (Dulé Hill), and he never forgets the risk of his job. Even among the threats of his environment and the haunting idea of poverty knocking at his door, Bo continues his work for Angelo.

Angelo shows Bo the darker, more sinister sides of the business with hopes to put his talents to use. This causes Bo to drop the drug business, as it was too dark for him to handle, and he goes out with quite a bang.

By double-crossing Angelo in an effort to make one last big cut of money from a sale, he puts himself in the hot seat. His actions lead to his sister’s kidnapping by the drug lord he had the audacity to cross. Now it’s his turn to save his sister.

This storyline creates great opportunities for character development and illustrates the heart-wrenching struggles Bo and his family endure in order to survive in their broken world. Dillard’s use of magic is a new take on the idea that a “super” hero doesn’t always have to come with a suit of armor or genetically enhanced power. Instead, magic parallels typical Marvel superhero qualities. Bo’s genuine desire to save his sister and his reliance on magic are truly moving.

I found Bo’s character to be unique and appealing – the unlikely hero overcomes his personal wrongs and fears to go after what he finds most important. His magic and skills picked up in the Los Angeles streets come to his advantage, beautifully illustrated on film with dark hues of evening lights.

Not only is Bo presented as strong and smart, but his sister is, as well. The women in the film do not go unnoticed, nor do they dissolve into the background like so many others do in today’s film industry. They are strong, brave and independent. Intelligence is a necessity for Bo and his sister and is always clearly portrayed.

Overall, I am incredibly glad I chose to see this film, as it was a beautiful and thought-provoking take on the tale of a hero and his unlikely parallels with those he is up against. A genre-redefining piece, “Sleight” challenges the industry’s portrayal of what the norm must be for superhero movies and how they should be presented.

Rating: B