SLEIGHT (2016)

(Netflix/VOD)? Like LOVE & BASKETBALL, SLEIGHT also exits at the end of March so, sadly, you don’t have much time to watch it for free, but it’s definitely worth a digital rental fee.

J.D. Dillard seems to specialize in delightfully overstuffed films. SLEIGHT is about a young drug dealer named Bo (Jacob Latimore) that gets in way over his head with supplier Angelo (a somewhat ill-fitting Dulé Hill), but he’s also a street magician who idolizes Houdini, and he also has a crazy superhuman magnetic implant that allows him to pull off some amazing stunts. As he says in the film: “Anyone can learn a trick. Doing something no one else is willing to do makes you a magician.”

It also namedrops West Covina (yeah, I hear you fellow CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND fans) and features Cameron Esposito in a supporting role.

While it’s undeniably high-concept, Dillard keeps matters grounded. Bo’s magnetic powers are slowplayed, lending the film a far more human air than you’d expect, which is what I appreciate the most about the movie. Dillard could’ve cranked this up to 11 and I’m sure it would have been an entertaining film, but he did the opposite and it’s far more interesting because of that choice.

That said, it reads like Dillard was setting this up as a franchise, with Bo becoming some sort of Tesla-ish force of nature, but that never happened. Instead, he went on to write and direct the similarly high-concept SWEETHEART, and is now working on a STAR WARS film.