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J.D. Dillard's Sleight (2016): An Empowering Origin Story Featuring a Person of Color

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Shortly after Jordan Peele's Get Out came on screen and made waves for, among many things, its depiction of a smart and savvy hero of color, J.D. Dillard's Sleight hit theaters. This science fiction/superhero origin story mashup features Bo, a highly intelligent and loving young man, who makes money how he can to take care of his sister after the death of his mother. By day, he's a street magician who wows folks who pass by with card tricks and others sleights of hand. By night, he sells drugs to overeager millennials.

We see the secret to Bo's magic early on in the action, although we don't get the full picture until later in the movie. Suffice it to say there's a cost to his skills. Like Wolverine in the X-Men, every time he uses his powers, it hurts. Often we forget that being good at something often means sacrifice of some kind. As we learn about Bo and listen to him explain to his new girlfriend why he does it, we are even more intrigued by him as a person. 

All seems to be going well, with Bo able to support his sister and a new friend and romance in the works, when Angelo, Bo's dealer, begins to make new demands. As Bo gets in deeper, he has to decide what he's willing to do, and what he has to do to protect his sister and stay true to himself. His path will lead him to find a way to amplify his powers, protect those he loves, and take control back from those trying to use him. 

I though the concept for this movie was quite intriguing. I have always been fascinating by magicians and the things they have to endure to wow audiences. One of my favorite Christopher Nolan movies is The Prestige, which also deals with a trick that seems impossible, and the chances the different magicians take to be the best at their craft. Unlike the characters in The Prestige, however, Bo does like impressing audiences, but it's not until someone he cares about is threatened that he takes his greatest risk. 

Jacob Latimore as Bo grabs the audience with his fantastic smile and kindly manner. Seychelle Gabriel is touching as the girlfriend he meets, who soon becomes part of Bo's family because of mutual need. Storm Reid as the younger sister is adorable. Most of the other actors are no notable. 

The movie dragged sometimes. The second half is definitely more interesting than the first, as more secrets are revealed and things move towards the conclusion. If nothing else, it was nice to see a person of color portrayed as smart, kind, and positive manner. Although he gets into a tight spot, he manages to get himself out with some assistance from a kind teacher from the past.