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Kicks (2016)

September. 09,2016
| Drama Action Crime

When his hard-earned kicks get snatched by a local hood, fifteen-year old Brandon and his two best friends go on an ill-advised mission across the Bay Area to retrieve the stolen sneakers.


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Don't Believe the Hype


Simple and well acted, it has tension enough to knot the stomach.


The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.


It is an exhilarating, distressing, funny and profound film, with one of the more memorable film scores in years,


Kicks allowed me to gain some very valuable insights into the mind of a kid growing up in Ridgemont, Oakland. When you hear of all the blood being spilled in those most violent and godforsaken places of the US you begin to wonder where it's all coming from.The movie is about a kid who longs for peace of mind and a firm social standing. Alas where our protagonist lives such a firm social standing is mostly determined by status symbols and more importantly by proving one has the power to acquire what others desire in order to show that eventually they will belong to the select few who find a way out of the hell they were born into.But those left behind have no role models left but those who left it all behind, those long gone from the moral vacuum that keeps holding younger generations captive. A vacuum that not only makes sure these young people remain right where they are, but further fuels their despair by sucking in drugs, guns and unprotected sex.The film tackles many subjects - lack of family identity, lack of moral guidelines, drug and gun availability, the media infusing our minds with questionable role models and the products that define them are only a few of them.At the same time it's a coming of age film about a boy who reaches a point where he has to learn what it means to stand up for himself as well as ask himself what is worth to be stood up for and how much it is worth.The kid's voice-over narrative reminded me of the pieces of prison wisdom presented by the guy in a wheelchair from Oz. These poetic moments bring some peace into the relatively loud, violent and fast-paced story.Aesthetically the movie was absolutely flawless, the trailer gives you a good idea what to expect in this department. The story is split into chapters and each chapter is introduced by a song that is descriptive of the content that is about to unfold.There's nothing bad to be said about the acting either. These kids do their job better than most adults can.The sexist elements and overstylization of the subculture presented might put some viewers off. I for my part felt they were essential tools that allowed us to peek into the minds of teenagers in poor urban American neighborhoods and that thereby allowed us to see what it is these kids desire - The simplicity of leading a life that has been promised to them.


A gorgeously done look at street life.Kid saves some money to buy the fresh new Jordans to put on his feet other than the holely skips he was wearing, his life already changes from the confidence boost with a new swagger that attracts the girls. It also attracts trouble when the local crazy dude steels his kicks. Now the kid becomes obsessed with taking the slippers he's now force to wear off his feet and getting back his kicks at all cost.I remember this life as a kid and how important Kicks were, and it sucks that Kids still have to worry about having their shoes taken. Then again, those 1st addiction Jordans could help pay someone's rent and put food on the table.At first glace, its a horrible look at the what happens when you introduced Jordans to this culture (it seems to me not coincidence that the movie is about the re editions of the 1st Jordans), but all of that is superficial to the message of what really is important in life.The young acting cast is very good, but I can't help but to give a shout out to Christopher Wallace Jr. not just because I'm a fan of his father Biggie Smalls, but I think it's cool that he's an actor and he's good at it.Overall, kicks gives me that colorful feeling I got when I saw Dope and Dear White People, although it has slightly more of a serious tone to it, and it needs that to get the message across. I like where all three of these films are going and how they are going there. Kicks is worth seeing.

Paul Allaer

"Kicks" (2016 release; 80 min.) brings the story of Brandon, a 14 or 15 yr. old kid in "East Bay", as we are reminded at the beginning of the movie. Brandon has a hard time fitting in, dreaming that "sometimes I wish I had a spaceship", so that he wouldn't have to worry about being chased or fitting in. He pines for Air Jordan sneakers (a/k/a "kicks"). After saving up and earning extra dough selling candy, Brandon is finally able to buy the much coveted black-and-red Air Jordans, but within a day, he is savagely ambushed and robbed by a gang in the hood. Brendan is determined to somehow get his sneakers back... To tell you more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.Couple of comments: this is the feature length debut from writer-director Justin Tipping. He brings us an insight look at the African-American culture in the Oakland/Bay area, where image and perception apparently are paramount. To not have decent sneakers is to not belong. To not be a 'tough' guy is to be dismissed by girls and guys alike. BEWARE: the movie does not hold back on anything, not in the least the violence that apparently is rampant in those circles. The ambush of Brandon, where a gang robs him of his newly-purchased Air Jordans, is vicious and repugnant. It almost made me leave the theater. Then a strange thing happened: Brandon's quest to regain his sneakers becomes a journey towards self-discovery that becomes mesmerizing, aided along the way by his imaginary/alter ego spaceman who guides him when he desperately needs help. Whether the movie accurately reflects what life is like in that segment of the African-American community, or simply stereotypes it, I couldn't possibly tell you, but what I saw displayed on the big screen made me shake my head on more than one occasion. It's possible, if not likely, that these things are simply incomprehensible for a middle-class white guy like myself..."Kicks" debuted with critical acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. It opened this weekend without any pre-release fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Friday evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (only 2 people besides myself), and I can't see this playing very long in the theater. If you are in the mood for a tough "boys in the hood" tale that exposes/clarifies the importance of sneakers and other bling, this might just be the movie for you, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray.


I was fortunate enough to be in the audience of the first screening of Kicks at the Tribeca Film Festival. It's an incredibly fresh and original film that addresses issues of masculinity and violence in modern times. I was actually left in tears as the credits rolled at the end of the film -- contemplating how violent the world we live in is. Yet, there's hope in Kicks, a beautiful hope that we can change and choose to move away from violence represented by the youngest character's choice at the end of the film. The performances from the cast are astonishing, especially the three young actors that play close friends in a frightening world with an honest and humor that is essential in real life. It's entertaining and touching. The use of music and visuals -- all the tools at a filmmaker's disposal are embraced to their fullest. It's hard to describe in words. You just have to experience it. So, go see it. I'm excited to see what's to come from these filmmakers.