Do you ever get that fuzzy “after-taste” feeling when you finish watching a captivating movie? That feeling of awe, relief and a sudden craving for fictional characters in your real life. Kicks gives you all these feelings and more.
Newbie director Justin Tipping draws emotion from his cast to generate tension and to express his vision. Only good directors like Tipping can make a deeply personal movie, that also belongs to everyone else. I’m sure he’s a filmmaker with a big future ahead of him.
Kicks is a look at the harsh reality of growing up poor and neglected. Brandon (Jahking Guillory) is a fifteen-year-old kid, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He says in the film’s opening moments, “Sometimes I wish I had a spaceship … just hang out in space where it’s quiet so no one can mess with me.” Brandon gets messed with a great deal in his tough neighbourhood, and he has problems fitting in with his peers. He pines for Air Jordan sneakers, assuming that simply by having them on his feet will help him carve out an identity. The film details the lengths he’ll go to be something in life, even if it means being a target of local hoodlums.
For a while, it seems like Kicks will be yet another cliched urban-film, full of teenagers trying to avoid gangs on the streets. But its blend of style and musical montages enliven the film, making it quite original. It has elements of the surreal and explores interesting characters.
Brandon’s descent into petty crime isn’t glorified, but it’s not portrayed as an allegory either. It’s more of an ugly backdrop for a boy trying to figure out his place in the world. Those sneakers are all he’s got so when they get snatched, conflict erupts and we see him go on a classic hero’s quest to retrieve the shoes.
Despite the premise, Kicks is much more than a boy-meets-shoe story. It’s a very good urban American tale, with great moments of suspense. Part of the story is actually based on Tipping’s own real-life experiences as a teenager. It’s a thoughtful, fast-paced film and a great directional debut.
Written and directed by: Justin Tipping.
Starring: Jahking Guillory, Mahershala Ali, Christopher Jordan Wallace.
Distributor: Focus World
Run Time: 84 minutes