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Film review: The tricks in ‘Sleight’ are no treat

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Latimore (left) works his magic in Sleight.
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Two stars

Sleight Jacob Latimore, Dulé Hill, Storm Reid. Directed by J.D. Dillard. Rated R. Opens Friday in select theaters.

Bo (Jacob Latimore) works as a street magician, performing card tricks and other illusions for random passersby, whose amazement prompts them to throw a few bucks into his hat. Sadly, Sleight itself isn’t nearly so skilled at misdirection. The first bait-and-switch reveals that this isn’t so much a movie about a street magician as it is the umpteenth story of a low-level drug dealer trying to escape the business. Both of Bo’s parents are dead, leaving him to care for his adorable younger sister, Tina (Storm Reid); street magic doesn’t bring in remotely enough cash, so he’s forced to moonlight in the employ of Angelo (Dulé Hill), an LA crime boss who turns out to be much more ruthless and vicious than he first appears.

Director J.D. Dillard brings nothing particularly fresh to this hackneyed material, staging violent confrontations (including a scene in which Bo is forced to chop off a rival kingpin’s hand with a meat cleaver) that feel unerringly phony. Still, there is at least the anticipation that Bo’s gift for sleight-of-hand will somehow rescue him at a crucial moment. Even this is a cheat, though, as it’s revealed that Bo achieves one of his most impressive tricks via an impossible technological method, akin to Tony Stark’s transformation into Iron Man (minus the suit). Essentially, Sleight is yet another superhero origin story. Just what we needed.

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