Thanks to streaming, there are so many movies to choose from that it’s easy for something to fall between the cracks. Sleight, a superhero drama from 2016, is one of those quality films that has been sadly overlooked for years. Don’t get it wrong; the movie doesn’t match up to the big-budget blockbusters; instead, it tells a small-scale, street-level story about a genius street magician.
Bo Wolfe (played by Jacob Latimore, currently starring in The Chi) is gifted with the ability to control metal, but he’s not a mutant or a born superhero, rather, he’s a technological genius. He built an electromagnet that he implanted into his arm, giving him what appears to be superhuman powers. Since he doesn’t have the skills of a gifted surgeon, the implant looks ugly and requires daily maintenance to ward off infection.
Sleight is a low-budget superhero drama on Netflix that knows exactly what it is and does it perfectly.
Stuck taking care of his sister, Bo performs street magic by day and sells drugs by night. Everything’s going well until a new kingpin comes into the neighborhood, and Bo’s supplier, Angelo (Dule Hill, best known as Gus from Psych in a very different type of role), takes aggressive steps to defend his turf.
The dramatic overreach results in Bo trying to skip town, but as countless other movies before Sleight have taught us, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” is true more often than not. For Bo, it results in his little sister, Tee (Storm Reid from 12 Years a Slave), getting kidnapped and held for ransom.
As Sleight escalates, Bo has his back against the wall, owing money to very dangerous people and his sister in danger. Bo does what any hero would do: He fights back. With no real powers to speak of except for his mind, what Bo does would make Tony Stark proud.
Sleight is the perfect type of street-level superhero story that fans wish we’d see out of Marvel and DC. It’s easy to imagine the film taking place in California within the same universe as any of the big-budget superhero blockbusters.
Of course, Sleight is not a big-budget production. Blumehouse and WWE Studios produced the film together, with an estimated budget of only $250,000. For Hollywood, that is dirt cheap, which makes the overall box office total of $4 million even more impressive. That rate of return is better than most of 2023’s big-budget films since Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Flash both lost more than Sleight cost to make.
A lack of star power doesn’t hurt Sleight, as cast, in addition to Jacob Litmore and Dule Hill, includes Sasheer Moore (Saturday Night Live), comedian Cameron Esposito, and Phill Lewis (known for Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but here, he’s the kingpin). The small cast hits above their star power, and critics agree.
Sleight is the perfect type of street-level superhero story that fans wish we’d see out of Marvel and DC.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Sleight is 80 percent fresh from 44 reviews, while the audience score is lower, 52 percent. Digging into audience reviews, the responses are all over the place, with some knocking the film for being unplausible and “like something out of Iron Man.” In contrast, others are upset over the hero selling drugs to college students.
Sleight can be most easily compared to the British sci-fi movie iBoy, about a young man with brain damage from a phone that gives him the ability to manipulate electricity and digital devices. Both are fun, short, low-budget superhero affairs that tell a tight story and have no desire to establish a franchise, leave the door open for a sequel, or sell action figures. Honestly, it’s refreshing to watch a movie that has realistic expectations and nails them.
Earlier this year, Sleight star Jacob Latimore also starred in House Party, while the year before, he was in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, proving that he can be put in any project and excel.
Earlier this year, Sleight star Jacob Latimore also starred in House Party, while the year before, he was in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, proving that he can be put in any project and excel. Maybe someday he’ll get a chance to play a major superhero for Marvel (potential Kang recast, but we’ll go on a limb and say Rick Jones) or DC (Orpheus or Batwing would be perfect).
Until then, the underrated superhero drama Sleight, now streaming on Netflix, will have to do.