Kicks (2016) has been out in cinemas for around a month, but I think it is worth a mention as it is an inspired feature film debut from of one Justin Tipping (who was also the film’s co-writer alongside Joshua Beirne-Golden). With a cast that combines newcomers as well as emerging talent (Kofi Siriboe, Mahershala Ali), Kicks is an entertaining and sometimes trippy journey around the Bay Area featuring teenage Brandon (Jahking Guillory) in the central role.
Brandon longs for a pair of Air Jordan 1 sneakers and through his ingenuity, finds a way to procure a pair. Of course, that is not the story … it just sets into motion a series of events which leads our young protagonist, along with best friends Rico (Christopher Meyer) and Albert (Christopher Jordan Wallace) traversing the urban landscape of the Oakland/Bay Area in search of recovering his now-lost treasure.
Kicks is not so much a statement of “sneaker” culture, although it is there around the edges. Instead, it feels like another film in a trend that I can only describe as being the “atypical” (by Hollywood standards) story centering on young black men in the inner city. These young men are not the now trope-ish “urban” characters that we often see on the silver screen. This idea even extends broadly to the less than virtuous characters, who are given additional character layers that allow the audience to connect with them in a refreshing way. In other words, these are simply kids and people trying to get by in the world the best way they know how to. It just so happens to be a world that may a bit unfamiliar (in the cinematic and real sense) from the average teen coming of age drama we are used to seeing. The story of Kicks and its characters is yet another example of why the diversity pipeline in our entertainment is so important.
In fact, in reading the production notes it is worth citing that as Tipping was working on his screenplay, he found inspiration from many of the films he grew up with – The Goonies as well as the films of the 1980’s, courtesy of John Hughes and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. And in many ways, I do see that – the days-long journey or quest to a yet to be determined destination, which ultimately leads our main character and his cohort to realize that there is more to them and the world around them than they had anticipated.
Kicks is not a perfect picture – for example, there are a lot of messages to process packed into its 87-minute running time (is that really a problem?) – but it does not take away in any way from the good work that Mr. Tipping has put together as a start to his career in feature films. In fact, his next credit according to IMDB is as the screenwriter of Lowriders a film for Universal Pictures starring Demian Bichir, Eva Longoria and Melissa Benoist.
In addition to the limited cinematic release, audiences have the opportunity to catch Kicks on digital via Amazon, OnDemand, iTunes, GooglePlay, etc., with a DVD/BluRay release on December 6th.