Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity,drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and violence, all involving teens.
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: Animal Kingdom
Distributor: Focus World
Brandon (Jahking Guillory) saved up for a pricey pair of Air Jordan, only to suffer the utter humiliation of having them stolen right off his feet at gunpoint by a gang of ghetto predators. Thus arrives a moment of truth for the nerdy 15-year-old who finds himself stuck at an unpleasant station in life where he’s not only routinely picked on by his peers but absolutely ignored by the opposite sex to boot.
Should he simply shrug off this latest dis as merely another cold reminder of what life is like in the ‘hood for any kid that isn’t macho, or is he finally mature enough to exact a measure of revenge on Flaco (Kofi Siriboe), the pompous perpetrator who’d seized the sneakers as a gift for a son (Michael Smith, Jr.)? Believe it or not, that is the sum and substance of the dilemma, which fuels the fire of “Kicks,” a super-realistic, inner-city saga marking the memorable directorial debut of Justin Tipping.
This earthy, slice-of-life flick convincingly captures the anomie and sense of desperation which might help explain why so many black youths opt to murder each other over seemingly trivial slights nowadays. While this story unfolds against the barren backdrop of Oakland’s exoskeleton, it could just as easily be taking place in such equally-godforsaken environs as latter-day Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, St. Louis, New Orleans or Detroit.
Before Brandon embarks on his hunt for Flaco, he enlists the assistance of his BFFs Albert (Christopher Wallace, Jr) and Rico (Christopher Meyer). They prove to be game and, for some reason that is never broached, theirs is a lawless world devoid of the option of approaching police or parents to intervene on their behalf.
A tentative tale of woe every bit as bleak as it is hopeful that there’s an exit at the other end of a disturbingly dystopic tunnel.