Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reserved Seating: Sleight (Spoiler Review)

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who knows what card you’re holding.

Note: We didn’t intend for this to be a spoiler review, but we got on a roll and there are some moderate spoilers in the column. We’ve marked those areas with Spoiler Warnings.

Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske. Sleight tells the story of a street magician named Bo (played by Jacob Latimore) who takes to small-time drug dealing in order to support his sister after his mother passes away. All is going smoothly until his boss, Angelo (Dulé Hill), wants Bo to take on a bigger role in his enterprise and become an enforcer. Bo, a nice kid, is taken aback by this development and plots a way to escape the situation. Complications ensue. Along the way, he develops a relationship with a young woman named Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) who works in a bakery and goes to college in the area. She goes along with anything he says for some reason; probably because she’s a terribly written character.

In this clip, Bo shows a few people on the street a card trick (because people in movies want to see this stuff even if people in real life would be like “I’m good.”) and explains magician philosophy in Will Smithspeak while Holly sees the end of the trick and is like “Wow. My boyfriend is 24K magic. I’m so lucky. Yay!”

This scene comes from the first half of the movie, which is when I was still thinking “Ok, this movie’s not great but it’s promising enough” and then it gets a lot worse. I didn’t like Sleight after it ended and I have grown a little less fond of it in the days since.

Rob: Sleight combines the working class, coming-of-age hero’s journey of a Spider-Man comic with a bunch of booorrrriiinnnggg shit that doesn’t add up to anything at all. It’s like someone lucky enough to have a pitch meeting at Blumhouse saw Chronicle and Now You See Me in the same afternoon and decided to wing it. Jacob Latimore leads a talented cast that does all it can to serve a script that never gives any of them anything interesting to do, instead relying on tired tropes and lazy drama. If I seem uncharacteristically hostile right now, it’s because Sleight had a strong first act and serious potential to be a standout (which was super exciting considering it opened against Guardians of the Goddamn Galaxy), but fell apart about half an hour in and never recovered. I’m super bummed out by how much this one shit the bed. It’s not bad, necessarily, just really disappointing in its dullness. That’s almost worse.
Adam: You’ve mentioned the Spider-Man comparison a couple of times in the last few days and I really want you to stop doing that because Sleight couldn’t sniff Spider-Man’s jock. Writer-director J.D. Dillard, I read, was a receptionist at JJ Abrams' Bad Robot and I think (in his feature directorial debut) does a good job making a great looking movie on a tiny budget (under $1M). I would definitely see another movie he directs, but I do not think Sleight is well written at all. There are so many problems with this script (e.g. not knowing what the movie is, character motivations) and the character of Holly is the one who broke the spell for me. Before her character and Bo became boyfriend and girlfriend, I was with the movie. It had a certain sense of mystery and there were a bunch of weird details about Bo that made me think that Dillard has a unique voice. Then when the cards are on the table (no pun intended), the reactions to Bo from several characters stretches believability past the breaking point. I agree with you that the movie feels worse because it starts out strong for the first half of its brief 90 minute runtime. Then it winds down in ways where you just want to yell at the screen and culminates in a final few shots that might as well be a director telling his audience to go screw themselves.

Rob: The last shot is such a problem, but I agree that the film is well-directed. I really liked the way it played expository scenes in those long push-in shots (there were at least two, I think) and let the dialogue sort of play out around them. It kept things quick and to the point. Dillard totally has a future as a director and I’m also in for anything he does next. Every penny of that $250,000 budget is on the screen, which I appreciated. I also appreciated the cast. I like this cast a lot. Jacob Latimore has the charisma and interiority to easily carry a much better film. Seychelle Gabriel has kind of a Disney Channel vibe, but she and the pint-sized (and awesomely-named) Storm Reid come through on the brief occasions in which they’re asked to. Dulé Hill (who I know from The West Wing and Patrick knows from Psych) plays against type as a smooth operating kingpin, and I’m on board with that, too. Hell, hilarious stand-up (and my personal style icon) Cameron Esposito shows up as a club…owner? Bar back? Something? And she’s awesome, too. This movie had so many great tools to work with and ended up with that shitty birdhouse you made in high school shop class.

Can we talk more about your issue with Holly? Cause I’m in the same boat. This poor girl.
Adam: I’ll get to Holly in a second. I’m of two minds on Jacob Latimore. I think he carries the movie, but he also seems too precious by half. I might still have his performance as “Time” in my head from Collateral Beauty. Dulé Hill is the best part of Sleight, even though the cliché he’s subverting of playing it like Dulé Hill but a drug dealer (instead of a mean drug dealer) is starting to become a cliché unto itself. The actress playing Holly I don’t think is bad at all, but her character is such a damn knucklehead that it makes her performance seem bad inadvertently. Mild spoiler: The movie plays out in the span of a few weeks (at least that’s my best guess) and Holly goes from being a student and having a job to turning her life upside down with a dude who cuts himself up for magic tricks, deals drugs, owes tens of thousands of dollars to a drug dealer and is on the run for his life, etc. Through all of this, she could walk at any moment but then Dillard creates a contrivance (in an ugly way I thought) to find a reason why she is reliant on Bo and doesn’t want to leave him. Ugh!

Rob: Remember when (again, mild spoilers) Bo is in that life or death situation where he has to leave town, and she’s like “I just have to take a couple finals and I’ll join you next week”? As you said in your text to me, does she have to request time off from the bakery? Like, what the hell? Her entire character is made up of plot contrivances and happenstance. She’s entirely too passive and tolerant of Bo’s bullshit. I want a spin-off where she and Tina realize what the fuck is up and go their own way.

And I haven’t seen Collateral Beauty, so maybe I’m reading too much into Latimore’s potential. I just think these are talented people who are a bit better than the material they’re given.

Adam: I was probably too hard on the cast earlier. Reading up on Jacob Latimore, he’s a very talented multi-faceted performer and he acquits himself nicely in Sleight. As for his character’s superpowers (we didn’t mention those yet), they are not superpowers but then maybe they are? I don’t even think this movie knows. All I know is the movie wants to have it both ways and he’s a liar magician. #NowYouSeeMeStew

Rob: It’s like...okay. Spoilers So your hero is an orphan science genius who did a thing in his arm with a magnet and makes his way on the tough streets of LA...doing magic? Why isn’t he pulling casino heists with Danny Ocean? I kept waiting around for his arm magnet to be explained or…you know, matter, and I thought it was going to happen in that scene where they go to the arcade and he messes with the machines to get his sister coins. Even Holly’s like, “Why the hell are we here? We have six hours to make like ten grand!” I thought for sure he would realize the power he has at his disposal and cross that threshold. It’s not like he has a real moral code! He’s been dealing drugs! It’s such a weird example of a script choosing to acknowledge plot obstacles without solving them. And then the movie’s like, “Oh, by the way, there’s this science teacher and it’s time to see him now.”
Adam: Why did he drop out of school in the first place? Because he was grieving (isn’t it better to grieve in school than grieve and sell drugs)? Because he had to earn to raise his sister? They said he got a scholarship! Get a job and tell your teacher/champion you need some help financially and maybe there’s a way for him to make it work. Bo is apparently brilliant enough to be Tony Stark-lite so I’m sure he can keep a 20hr/week gig and still do his engineering homework. This drug dealing shit is time he could have used getting a degree. Ugh! Can we stop talking about Sleight? I will talk to you about anything else right now.

Rob: You see that Blade Runner trailer? Sexy, right?

Adam: Yeah, they still have a few months to remove Jared Leto from it. Other than that, it looks good.

Rob: Are you a Dark Tower fan? I’m considering reading the Wikipedia page and pretending I’ve always loved the books. That movie seems weird enough to work. Plus, Idris Elba.

Adam: I’m not much of an authority on it. I have not read the books so I can just judge on the trailer and who’s making it. I don’t think it looks good and the fact it’s a Sony release on top of that makes me worry. Have you looked at the summer’s releases coming up? Yikes. Especially August. Warner Bros. should move up It. That feels like a summer movie more than a September one.

Rob: Look. I’ve got Baby Driver and The Big Sick to look forward to. I’m having a hard time getting jazzed for anything else. Alright, last question: You’re on an island with one character from Sleight. Who is it, and why?

Adam: Hailee Steinfeld.

Rob: That’s cheating. Fine. Alison Brie. What are we reviewing next week?

Adam: King Arthur: Land of the Fools? King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? King Arthur: Fight for Freedom? I don’t remember the full title. How many chances is this Hunnam kid going to get? I remember him from the TV show Undeclared and he was good back then, but after Heath Ledger died, Hunnam never took the reigns as the possibly Australian blonde sensitive beefcake. Now he looks like a can of Hormel Chili. If he just shaved his beard I bet his movies would be better by 50 percent. I just want to look at him and feel the same way I feel when I hear “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. Moved.

Rob: According to the aforementioned Wikipedia, Hunnam was discovered “while drunkenly clowning around buying shoes for his brother.” So. I don’t know. Did you see that SNL thing this week where Chris Pine explained the difference between him and the other Chrises? Yeah. You’re going to have to keep reminding me who Charlie Hunnam is. But I like Guy Ritchie for the most part (#ManFromUNCLE), so I’m sure I’ll love King Arthur: Mother of Dragons.

Adam: I missed the SNL skit. I’m Team Pine for life. Pratt is good depending on the role. Evans is solid and dependable. Hemsworth should be the new Swayze but somehow is not. Anyways, until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. I'm hoping you guys repeatedly misspelled Lowriders when talking about what you're reviewing next week.

    1. Haha. Lowriders looks fun. I'm going to see it hopefully this weekend.

    2. At a lean 99 minutes, I might try to do a double feature sometime this week with Lowriders and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena hiding from a sniper behind a wall for 90 minutes in the appropriately named "The Wall".

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  3. guys, Hunnam is the guy from Pacific Rim. he was bad, the movie was awesome. plus idris elba

    1. I know who Hunnam is, yo. I knew he was from Undeclared. I have the street cred. I do not like Pacific Rim. If the thesis is Pacific Rim is awesome, we are not going to have a meeting of the minds.

    2. I'm sure you all did a podcast or a review here, so i'll go read to know why you didn't like it, but we will have a meeting of the minds, and you'll like it ;)

      Seriously, none of my friends like it either, so i'm the crazy one in my group, but it is awesome. They also think starship troopers suck, so...

      I don't remember hunnam in Undeclared, it's been too long since i saw it. I need to rewatch that show

    3. I like Starship Troopers a lot. Pacific Rim isn't my cup of tea. I didn't do a podcast or review for that one (I believe JB and Patrick did). I'm not going to crap on Pacific Rim though because that would be pointless. I'm happy you enjoy it.

  4. King Arthur: Gawain's World. The movie approaches the legend from the perspective of Arthur's nephew according to what I've read online.

  5. The Hemsworth/Swayze idea is interesting and confusing to me. Can you explain further? Or is it more of a heart feeling?

    1. A guy that both men and women would be drawn to, similar to Swayze. Like he has the answers or just some sort of wisdom and we're kind of in awe of him. Crosses the bridge of romantic and macho.

    2. Aha, I get it. But I think Hemsworth needs to make a Ghost or a Road House before that's really true. Or, good fates smile upon us...A dancing movie.

    3. You're right. His filmography is very same-y.