The only thing I knew about Sleight going in was that it had something to do with magic. I hoped that it would at least be better than Now You See Me, which is a pretty low bar. Fortunately, it is. At least at the beginning.
Bo (played by Jacob Latimore) had a very promising life. He’s a talented magician, and he’s good enough with electronics that he was awarded a scholarship to pursue it in college. But then his parents died, and he was left to care for his little sister Tina (Storm Reid) by himself. So he gave up school so that he could support the two of them. He found that he could earn a meager income performing street magic, and it did allow him to meet a girl (Holly, played by Seychelle Gabriel), but it just wasn’t enough. So he began to supplement his income by selling drugs.
Now things seem to be going fairly well. He generally targets a fairly high class of client, so there’s not too much danger, but he’s really not proud of what he’s doing. He hopes to be able to make enough to be able to get out of the business and find a more legitimate way of earning money, and he thinks that he’s almost there. But his supplier Angelo (Dulé Hill) has different ideas. Angelo has taken an interest in Bo and is bringing him further into the business in a way that makes it hard for him to say no. Things escalate quickly, and Bo soon finds himself in way too deep.
Sleight is two parts good, one part iffy, and one part annoyingly, ridiculously, frustratingly stupid. The magic stuff is light and fun, and Latimore is so charismatic and natural while doing it that almost wish it were a more significant part of the plot. The drug stuff is tense and dramatic, and both Latimore and Hill seem to nail their characters. But the relationship stuff is a little rougher. The interaction between Bo and his sister is wonderful, but just about every step of the relationship between Bo and Holly seems way too easy and unearned.
And then there’s the electronics stuff. It’s the weakest element of the film from the beginning (where it’s just a very implausible means of performing a magic trick, but you’re willing to go with it because it’s kind of fun and who knows how magnets work anyway, right?), and then it starts to take over to the extent that it dominates the climax and the epilogue in a very unfortunate way. It completely shifts the film into a whole different genre, and in doing so, throws away all the goodwill that it’s built up over the previous hour or so. I’m not sure whether my biggest frustration with it is how completely unnecessary it is and how incongruous it is with everything leading up to it, or with how the end of the film makes it feel like the whole thing was basically a prequel to a very different kind of movie.
If they’d only found a different, more fitting way to resolve the movie, it probably would’ve been great. But the ending they went with is bad enough on its own, but the thought that the whole movie may have been the setup for something completely different knocks it down another notch or two.