Alright, so similar to NO MANCHES FRIDA, I actually knew this movie was already out. In fact, it was released last week. But at the time, it was playing in only one theatre near me, and I would had to have driven a little too far for it, playing in an auditorium that I knew wouldn’t be worth the mileage. So, I made the active decision to skip this movie entirely, like MORRIS FROM AMERICA a few weeks back. However, it looks like this little film got picked up by my local AMC, so I’m taking advantage of the convenience. And yet…. I am still not looking forward to it. This movie looks unbearably pretentious. A kid somehow buys a pair of Air Jordan shoes that are “worth more than his life,” they get stolen from him by a local street gang, and now he goes out seeking revenge… over a pair of shoes. Wow, I am not buying this premise at all.
Well, lets look at this cast of unknowns. About as fresh as fresh can get, our lead of the story is played by a young man Jahking Guillory. He’s been in a few TV shows (once) in the last couple years, including a movie in 2014 called MIDNITE CABBY. Never heard of it myself, but this looks to be his biggest film. More interesting, the film also has Mahershala Ali. Definitely a respectable talent being a Hunger Games alum, as well as being in other films such as FREE STATE OF JONES (2016), THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012), THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008), and will be featured in the upcoming Marvel-Netflix show LUKE CAGE.
Now for behind the scenes. Directing and co-writing is Justin Tipping. Another fresh talent and this will be his feature-length debut having only a few short films under his belt. His co-writer is Joshua Beirne-Golden. He and Tipping seem to have worked together from their short films, so again, a debut. Composing the music is Brian Reitzell, which should prove to be interesting for you gamers out there, having done video games like WATCH DOGS, DEAD RISING 3, and RED FACTION ARMAGEDDON.
I’m going in with incredibly low expectations, but I do have to ask… how bad can it be? So whatever, this is my honest opinion of KICKS.
Brandon (Jahking Guillory) is a teenager living in a rough neighborhood, just trying to stay out of trouble and get by. Not the easiest goal since he’s not very tall and can’t play basketball as well as his friends who are taller, nor is he as lucky with the ladies. But soon, he wants to be looked at with a little more respect. Since one of the biggest reasons he gets made fun of is because of his worn out shoes, he decides to get a new pair of good sneakers, inspired by the pair of first-generation Air Jordans that another student at his school was wearing.
First of all, the premise is absolutely ridiculous. If you watched that trailer, I promise you, that’s the movie. Kid gets new and nice shoes, gets his ass kicked for them, and he goes on a revenge trip. THEY’RE JUST SHOES!!! Even the movie poster is all, “they aren’t just shoes.” Um… yeah they are. Nothing in this premise makes any sense and it’s a wonder how it got green-lit in the first place. First of all, if you wanted a pair of gen-one Air Jordans, something’s telling me no two-bit, van-driving dude’s got a pair just sitting around in the back seat. Nor would he sell possible thousand dollar shoes for one hundred and fifty dollars. If that shit’s as rare as the movie claims, Brandon stole the fuck out of them and didn’t spend a dime. Or the two-bit van-driver is a fucking dumb-shit. Second, if shoes are such a commodity in this dog-eat-dog neighborhood, why would you, a five-foot-nothing kid want to draw attention to yourself like that? From the way I saw things in this place, having shoes that function is one thing, but having such rare and expensive shoes is painting a target on the back of your head. Third, why the fuck did you get rid of your old shoes?! Seriously, going back to the rough neighborhood crap, your Air Jordans were going to get ruined or stolen one way or another. You should always have your old pair sitting around so you don’t have to, oh I don’t know, walk around wearing your mom’s pink slippers everywhere. Oh wait, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU DO!!! There is literally nothing to care about in this story. If Brandon doesn’t get his shoes back, big deal. Life goes on. In a week, it wouldn’t matter to anyone. He gets them back, again, who fucking cares?! All this commotion over a pair God-damned shoes?! Fuck this noise.
Notice how that whole paragraph was just about the premise of the movie (eh, sort of). Wait till I get to real meat.
You might also notice in the poster, there’s an astronaut. Throughout the trailer, an astronaut is featured. You might also be very confused what this astronaut has to do with anything in this movie. It, uh, it does not have anything to do with this movie. Literally, Brandon narrates how he wants to be in space where he’s alone and can’t be hurt. He’s never featured in space, he’s not the one in the suit, it’s a load of pretentious horseshit to make him sound deep and seem like a dreamer because lazy writing thinks that’s how you connect with the audience. I don’t know what this thing is supposed to represent, but then again, I don’t think even the story knows what it represents.
To punish the audience further, the story is about Brandon going all Mad Max on the guy who stole his shoes, and he is probably one of the most boring characters ever conceived. Who is this kid? We learn nothing about him. His friends are funny. They have distinct personalities. But not Brandon. The movie wants to imply that he’s a dreamer, but take out the pointless narrations, we never see him dream about a better life. We just see him, ironically, dream about his current life. “Even in my dreams, I’m being chased.” He simply watches more interesting people, but the camera just shows him reacting to everyone around him. Literally, ninety percent of the movie is just him giving blank stares. Even when someone does talk to him, giving golden opportunities to for the story to shed more light on who Brandon is as a person, it decides instead to have Brandon bow his head in shyness and shake his head. I should have turned it into a drinking game… or maybe not because the poor theatre staff would have to deal with the mental and emotional trauma of finding my body. I can’t do that to anyone. It’s not their fault they screened this terrible movie. The point is, he’s dull, not interesting, and annoying for how unassertive he is unless the script calls for him to be.
And now let’s talk about the villain of the movie. First, let’s analyze the word, “villain.” What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that word? I don’t know about you, but I think about comic book bad guys, campy action movie bad guys who are trying to take over the world with the use of a weather machine. Did that come close to what you thought? Because I’d swear to Christ almighty, that’s what this story had in mind when they wrote Flaco (Kofi Siriboe). Silver grills, sharpened canines, tattoos over his body, he’s basically a black version of SUICIDE SQUAD’s Joker if he was, you know, pathetic. What does it say about a street gang member who has to steal from a teenager to get what he wants? To make matters even more pathetically hilarious, the movie thinks that the audience somehow cares about this guy just because we’re shown that he has a kid. Um… please raise your hand if you suddenly thought he was a good guy because of that little kid? Please raise your hand if you thought by the end of the movie that he was a changed man and he will be a symbol of change that not only the face of cinema needs, but the symbolic change that America, nay, the world needs. You know what, life is too short and precious, save your muscles the effort for something worthwhile. It’s a blatant attempt to tell us why he does what he does, but he’s still far too brutal in his means to be a sympathetic character.
That’s all this story is: a generic David versus Goliath, but if it was written to be boring and uninteresting. If you look at RottenTomatoes, they rated the film a 78% (as of 9/19/2016), yet IMDb rates the film a 4.8/10 (as of 9/19/2016). I gotta side with IMDb on this one and say it’s just a really bad film. It’s got a set-up that’s dead on arrival and no meaningful follow-through to make it anything less than a Netflix’s Top Picks that I would ignore and forget about.
My honest rating for KICKS: 2/5
- BLAIR WITCH
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=girSv9UH_V8
- BRIDGET JONES’S BABY
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJsvmscPY9w