Justin Tipping (director)
Animal Kingdom (studio)
22 May 2017 (released)
In all respect, being a teenager now days is much harder than it’s ever been before. Pressures of life impact the young much harder than adults and small things such as what shoes you wear act as a grading system of the type of person you’ll amount too. Many films explore this notion of how the young are affected by their environments, how certain events impact their lives and the end result through hardships and struggle.
“Kicks” is a stylish and beautifully presented journey into the life of Brandon, a 15 year old boy who in all honesty wants to be treated with respect. Growing up in The Bay he often faces tough guys, thugs and people who look down on him. Everywhere he goes, he’s judge by his stature and by the shoes he wears. Still he has his best friends close by who also act as the comic relief.
One day Brandon decides to go ahead by buy a pair of Fresh Air Jordon’s, the most superb trainers money can buy. He feels on top of the world until he’s beaten and mugged by the local hood. After a humiliating beating, the 6ft hood takes the Air Jordon’s and disappears. Brandon is now determined to go out and reclaim his shoes, proving his manhood in the process. He simply can’t buy another pair as his family are broke and it’s the principle of getting them back.
There are engaging themes which “Kicks” explores very well. It’s an endearing story about boyhood which display’s Brandon’s journey from the boy daydreams of being an astronaut to a man who’s suffered for his pride. There are tough, uncomfortable moments which the film doesn’t shy away from, yet also delivers humour and light hearted scenes to cut the tension and relief you before things get out of hand. There’s a good mixture of raw agony and poetic beauty so that you can watch happily without being pushed too far, for the most part.
While watching “Kicks” I kept thinking that I was watching a very high budget shoe commercial. There is an issue with the film being too much like an advertisement in key segments, rather than engaging the viewer on enriching story and instead felt a little shallow. I understand the shoes are a metaphor, but there's plenty of moments where we're viewing the shoes only, taking up the screen and vital time that could be spent on our character's. Even on the poster, the shoes are centre stage and it's pretty much the same in the film. During the second act there are also some major pacing problems as the film either speeds through key scenes or slows down during segments such as a drag race to entice you with some semi attractive imagery. It’s inconsistent on what feels important and this also didn’t help make the film feel more like an ad for Air Jordon’s.
Even with the film’s problems I was captivated by the excellent performances with Jahking Guillory (Brandon) and Kofi Siriboe (Flaco) being utterly brilliant. We can believe Brandon’s transition, his fear, guilt and happiness at the small things through such a great performance. His friends acted well as great supports and the comedy duo whose antics cut through the tension of any dark, foreboding scenes. I felt Brandon’s progression was highly valid and facing his responsibilities was handled well. There is a confusing nature to our main antagonist (Flaco) who has a side we despise and at times goes too far to even consider him human. Yet there’s something very endearing when it comes to an aspect of his personal live but is overshadowed by his incredibly gruesome antics. It left a bad taste in my mouth to see Flaco kick in a small boy’s head for an IPod and then return home to his young son with love and affection.
There were striking contrasts that didn’t help me feel sorry for him or even to have something to relate too. One moment he’s taking his son to play basketball, the next he’s doing cocaine with hooker’s right in front of the child. There’s no rhythm as it cuts back and forth so dramatically with him that we can’t understand him. Thus impairs the reasoning with the conclusion.
There are things to enjoy about “Kicks” from its cinematography, acting and the awesome soundtrack. But there’s problem within pacing in the second act, the antagonist’s sense of purpose and how at times the flow is ruined by the film feeling the need to be more of an advertisement than a heartfelt and endearing journey of growing up.