January 30, 2017 -- A dangerous quest for a stolen pair of shoes becomes an odyssey through ravaged California minority neighborhoods where drugs are omnipresent and violence is never far away. It is a tale of lost innocence, absent fathers and rites of passage.
Brandon (played by actor and rapper Jahking Guillory) is poor kid who wears worn out tennis shoes to school, where most kids have extremely expensive shoes endorsed by sports stars like Michael Jordan. He goes to a shoe store, looking for a pair of vintage Air Jordans, but he might as well be looking at jewels through a window. He doesn't have enough money.
But by hook and crook, he gathers some money and gets a deal on some shoes from a neighborhood guy selling them out of his car, the kind of guy you do not ask where he got them. His new shoes (in local parlance, shoes are called kicks) are a hit. Because of them, he gets asked to a party by a girl, probably a first, but then older kids beat him up and steal his shoes. His friends laugh at him when he comes to school in slippers. He threw his old shoes away when he bought the new ones.
Brandon is both smaller and younger than the thief, Flaco (played by Kofi Siriboe of “Straight Outta Compton”) who also carries a gun. Brandon's friends, Rico (Christopher Meyer of “Wolves”) and wisecracking Albert (Christopher Jordan Wallace of “Everything Must Go,” who happens to be the son of the Notorious B.I.G.) tell Brandon to just forget about the beating and theft. Brandon, humiliated and belittled, has had enough. He is going to get his shoes back, even if it kills him.
Brandon, Rico and Albert head off to Oakland in search of Flaco and the shoes. He stops by his uncle's place, hoping for some help, but his gangster ex-con uncle, Marlon (played by award winning actor Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures”) tells Brandon he is on his own. Brandon steals Marlon's gun and heads off in search of Flaco.
Rico and Albert are both scared, and rightfully so, after being shot at in Marlon's house, just for wearing the wrong colored shirt. Flaco is a dangerous guy with a bad temper, but they stick with Marlon and help him. Marlon ends up at Flaco's house, taking the size seven shoes back from Flaco's son. Things get very dicey in the gunfight that follows.
This is a good-looking film from first-time writer-director Justin Tipping. It is overflowing with drug use and profanity. There is a lot of very explicit talk about sex, and some scenes depicting it. At times, it is so realistic that it seems like a documentary. The story is compelling and the actors are convincing. This film rates a B.
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