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Title: Kicks

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:74

I’m getting increasingly tired of the same blockbusters being recycled year after year. Sure, I love my superhero films, my “Bourne” sequels, and my big dumb action movies with no soul. But I also have really been craving something different in my film watching. This year’s “Dope” was just the ticket for me and happens to be my favorite Indie film of the year. “Don’t Think Twice” also fits the bill for being different and unique, but that is much more an acquired taste due to its blending several different styles together. Then comes along “Kicks”, a movie that I initially just thought was a cheap indie film with a supernatural twist. Something that just seemed off and bizarre. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I ended up enjoying the movie. I hate to spoil anything, but the supernatural twist really isn’t supernatural at all. The included space man that’s on the cover and supposedly an integral part of the movie is really more an allegorical character more than a main player. Something which allows the gritty tale of poverty and standing up for your rights when they’re taken away from you to stand out in a realistic way. There’s a few odd portions and mis paced sections near the center, but overall “Kicks” is fascinating gang drama that keeps you rooting for the main character, despite the methods that he employs during the movie.

Brandon (Jahking Guillory) is your average kid in the ghettos of an American inner city, just getting by. He’s kind of a scrawny runt and gets picked on by the older kids on his way home. As he says, you gotta run to survive. Like every kid of his age and in that area of the city he really REALLY wants a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s, the baddest and coolest pair of (overpriced) tennis shoes known to man. Not only does he want a pair of Jordans, but he really has his eyes set on the red and black Air Jordan One’s (the original). However, these shoes are $350 in stores and there’s no way he can come up with that kind of cash. Even scraping his hidden birthday money and cash he can scrape up from selling odd candy bars on the side of the street nets him only about $150 bucks. However, that $150 nets him his dream shoes when he is approached by a guy selling Jordan’s out of the back of a van (we’ve all met those “fell off the truck” people).

Proud of his new kicks, Brandon is on his way home from school when he’s beaten and robbed of his shoes by a gang of men lead by the notorious Flaco (Kofi Siriboe). Furious and humiliated about getting robbed, Brandon sets out on a journey to get his shoes back. A journey that seems insurmountable and completely undoable, but a journey that he’s going to finish. Even if that means he has to get his hands dirty and maybe end up getting shot over.

“Kicks” stays away from being flashy or over the top. The language spoken in the film is very indicative of the poverty stricken ghettos of Detroit, L.A., or Chicago and as someone who grew up near there I can verify the authenticity. Nothing is done that makes you feel like you’re watching a big budget film, but the actions of Brandon and Flaco and the rest of them feel very intimate and contained. This is really a soul searching journey for Brandon rather than an adventure flick where he gets his shoes back from the big bad villain. It peels back the out layers of Brandon’s psyche and lets you see just what makes him tick. What drives him to risk EVERYTHING to get those shoes back. Part of it is the need to get back what is rightfully HIS from someone who stole from him, and part of it is reconciling oneself to becoming a man and standing up to those who would pick on or otherwise oppress you. These shoes aren’t just shoes to Brandon. They’re a vehicle for being sick and tired of being abused and picked on by everyone around him. An outward working of an inner conflict, so to speak.

There film gets off to a great start, but it also slows down a little bit during the 2nd act when there’s some needed character development to allow Flaco to grow beyond just a mustache twirling villain (or gangsta in this case). However it does start to drag in this act and you’re wondering when the movie will pick up again. Thankfully the third act closes out the film with a bang (almost literally) and in such a way that you get a deep surge of satisfaction in watching Brandon persevere through this conflict. Now I may not agree with the methods he employs, but it is a turning point in his life as he jumps that hurdle from being the scared little mouse to someone who is on his way to manhood. At the same time I watch with a heart of sadness as his outcome and his life path are all too real for inner city youth like Brandon. And their outcome is usually not a pretty one.


Rated R for violence, drug/alcohol use and language throughout, and sexual content - involving teens

Video :4stars:
I can’t verify with 100% certainty, but “Kicks” is almost certainly a digitally shot production. Given a 2.39:1 AVC encode transfer on the Blu-ray, it looks really crisp and sharp. The Urban setting shows off some fantastic detailing and textural moments that make you feel like you could reach out and touch the dirty chain link fence or the paint peeling off the walls of a rundown house. Intimate detailing is well done with heavy jackets and hoodies showing some great fine point detailing with the stitching and weave. Colors are normally neutral and rather dim, but there are some really strong primaries that act as a contrast for the dingy looking neighborhood. The bright reds of the Air Jordan’s, or the deep maroon of blood on someone’s face. Or the bright yellow a nerf gun in the backyard all are brilliantly saturated and almost pop off the screen. The blacks are solid enough, with good shadow detail and inky levels. There is a little bit of aliasing here and there and some occasional mosquito noise in the background, but nothing overly aggressive. A solid entry from Universal to be sure.

Audio :4stars:
“Kicks” features a fairly standard dramatic mix in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The front end of the track is the main focus with well replicated dialogue and a few more action oriented bits (such as when Brandon and his buddies break into Flaco’s house). The surrounds aren’t give a whole lot of work, but they do come alive with the sounds of a few interspersed gunshots and the incident with the car. Otherwise they’re left quiet until the electronic score and hip hop music kicks in. Talking about the music, it’s one of the more enjoyable aspects about the mix and brings a full bodied and rich sound to the movie, intertwining the boy’s freestyling with the works of other, more well respected singers. The LFE is brought out fully in those musical numbers, but it also compliments the accompanying gunshots and the sound of a train rattling over the tracks here and there.

Extras :1star:

• Kicks: One on One
• Photo Gallery

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Kicks” was one of the more surprising films for me out of the last couple of months. I really wasn’t expecting much from it despite its great reception at the Sundance film festival. The trailers felt weird and unhinged, but the actual movie itself is fantastic. Director/writer Justin Tipping does a great job at blending a coming of age story in with a gang drama that watches objectively from the sidelines as a young man makes certain choices that will affect his life forever. Not all of those choices are good, but not all of them are bad and that’s what I appreciate about kicks. It doesn’t glorify either set of choices but just WATCHES as they unfold on screen, allowing the viewer to make up their own mind about Brandon and his motives and actions. Audio and video are excellent, but I was a little disappointed at the two small extras on the disc. Definitely worth checking out.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer
Directed by: Justin Tipping
Written by: Justin Tipping, Joshua Beirne-Golden
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: R
Runtime: 87 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 6th, 2016

Buy Kicks On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch

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