Last year in 2015, we went to the land of Inglewood California in the coming of age comedy Dope from Rick Famuyiwa. Now in 2016 we have Justin Tipping opening TFF with his directorial feature film, Kicks, which may the perfect double feature to Dope because this has exact feel as that movie. This might as well be the spiritual cousin to Dope as 10 Cloverfield Lane was a spiritual cousin to Cloverfield.
Brandon is a 15 year old whose dream is a pair of fresh Air Jordans. Soon after he gets his hands on them, they're stolen by a local hood, causing Brandon and his two friends go on a dangerous mission through Oakland to retrieve them.
Kicks is a film that brilliantly shows the struggle of living in the ghettos of California, because the movie doesn’t shy away from showing how dangerous the people are. The way we see the world through Brandon’s point of view is thoroughly engaging especially in an environment as messed up as Oakland. The film uses lyricism to set up the story and divide it into chapters based on what the section of the film is going to be about and the way they execute it is rather impressive.
As raw as the movie is, it has an indie vibe to it due to some great imagery here specifically involving a space astronaut that interacts with Brandon as his inner conscience. The movie prospers from an interesting lead who are powered with determination through the entire way, but it is his friends who steals the show. Though Jahking Guillory [Brandon] does a good job carrying the film, Christopher Wallace Jr. [Albert] and Christopher Meyer [Rico] manages to snatch the spotlight from him in a numerous amount of scenes especially when it’s just the three of them either cracking jokes or being emotional together. Their dynamic is very surreal that you genuinely feel that these guys are friends than actors playing as friends. The film even has Mahershala Ali as Brandon’s uncle and he has the best written dialogue in the whole film.
The movie manages to have a powerful social message about how far will you risk your life over materialistic brand sneakers. It shows through both the eyes of the lead and the antagonist who is the very definition of the word frightening. The movie just never stops being intense and engaging where it constantly have you laughing hard and gasping in shock.
In a lot of Indie movies, you do get a lot of stylistic choices such as scenic imagery and beautiful angle shots. Kicks manages to incorporate the scenic imagery that is breathtakingly beautiful but at the same time relies too much on slow motion shots. At first it’s beautiful the way it's used but then its overdone to a point it crosses into Zack Snyder territory where it just pads out the length of the movie. And already this is a very short movie that is slowly paced, so the overuse of slo-mo shots doesn’t help the time limit but just drags it out longer when it doesn’t need to be. There are times where you feel the film didn’t have much to show in storytelling because somewhere in the second act the film just gets distracted and caught up in it’s own environment that it nearly turns into a different film and forget about the main task at hand until another character says to the lead, “let’s get out of here you don’t wanna stay here” nearly six minutes after the fact. Guillory does a great job as I said, but his character is very iffy in terms of being relatable. He’s not really enthusiastic and a bit self-centered where he does something crazy towards the climax that you can’t forgive him for but seeing the world being a bigger asshole than he is, is a reason why you can get behind him
Though there is an overload of slo-mo that pads out the film’s short length, Justin TIpping’s Kicks is a well made coming of age film with a good social message, beautiful imagery, and hip hop soundtrack that contributes into the story damn near perfectly.