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Sleight

This magician’s greatest trick is ­escaping a life of crime

Street magician Bo (Jacob Latimore) has a trick up his sleeve that allows him to control objects. <<© Diablo Entertainment>>

The future looked bright for Bo (Jacob Latimore: Collateral Beauty), a brilliant student and talented magician. But his mother’s death turns his attention from college — where he gives up a free ride — to maintaining a stable home for his little sister.
    Performing street magic for tips won’t pay the mortgage, so Bo takes a more lucrative night job, selling drugs. He rationalizes his choice because he works for a gentleman dealer, Angelo (Dulé Hill: Ballers), who seems to be a cut above.
    Bo’s judgment is wrong. As demands for violence escalate, he must contrive his greatest escape.
    He has a trick up his sleeve. A magnet embedded in his arm gives him the apparent superpower of controlling objects. Will his superpower free brother and sister from the clutches of a drug dealer? Or is that a trick beyond even Houdini?
    Smart, original and well acted, Sleight is a refreshing update of the Iron Man superhero. This hero has real-world problems and a real-world budget. Bo can’t hop on a jet or visit a high-tech lab to retool. He’s confined to his tiny workspace and the tools on hand.
    Co-writer and director J.D. Dillard (Mariah) makes his feature-length debut with Sleight, showing strong storytelling sensibilities and an interesting visual style. He keeps the film short, the plot moving and creates a few nifty action sequences, including a fight involving bullet-dodging that is way more dramatically satisfying than anything The Matrix had to offer.
    But working on a tiny budget, Dillard makes promises there’s no way to fulfill, which leads to an ending that’s a little disappointing.
    The obligatory love story is a distraction. Girlfriend Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) seems too perfect to be true, and romance neither motivates nor hinders Bo’s journey.
    Gabriel is negligible. Latimore is — literally — a magnetic presence on the screen, imbuing Bo with sweetness that makes even his terrible choices forgivable. Latimore makes Bo a kid in way over his head, desperately trying to do the right thing. Hill gives a delightfully menacing performance as dealer Angelo, all cool smiles and friendly talk until something doesn’t go his way.
    Buy a ticket to Sleight to show juggernaut studios like Marvel and DC that comic fans are interested in stories as well as cool effects.

Good Action • R • 90 mins.