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More Than Just Sneakers: KICKS Movie Review


I have a not too fond memory of having to buy special orthopedic-like shoes for an injury I had in the sixth grade.  All I remember is my brother taking me to Lipkind's Shoes on Boston Road in the Bronx to look at a pair of sneakers my mom had put on hold earlier in the day.  My brother and I still laugh to this day about the look on my face after seeing the gleaming white and royal blue pair of horrific Jox that stared out at me from the shoebox coffin in the hands of what seemed like Satan himself.  This was in stark contrast to the feeling of finally copping my first pair of navy and white Nike Cortez's in the first grade or the ecstasy of the victory of landing my Dontrelle Willis Nike Dunks in an online Nike-run website a few years back.  

I think the thing about sneakers and young kids are that in a society that champions status, expression and personality, while we fight to find our voices in the aforementioned, we often use material things as initial catalysts to help ourselves be heard.  The crisp pair of Jordans to a high school kid is tantamount to the sporty convertible for the mid-aged divorcee man; he has to be heard, seen, liked, envied, championed and respected.  Such was the case for Brandon (Jahking Guillory), the protagonist in "Kicks", a new film by Justin Tipping, that examines in beautiful cinematographic detail how it's never really just about the shoes.  

The object of affection in "Kicks" are the infamous Jordan 1's.  The lonely life of 15 year old Brandon is painted as one where he often fends for himself and, unbeknownst to his visually absent hardworking mother, is one where he takes his coaching from observing life, and his bumbling two best friends.  Like many a young guy's life in the inner city, Brandon has to come to grips with his size, his popularity and his ignorances the hard ways.  So he needs new shoes and lucks out by getting his hands on a freshly swiped pair of classic Jordan 1's.  He sets off to rock them with pride and begins to see some of the benefits that box-fresh kicks can bring when the real trouble begins.  After they are stolen right off his feet by Flaco (Kofi Siriboe), a notorious local gang leader, Brandon makes it his mission to not slip back into the underbelly of the unpopular and sets off driven by anger, frustration and anxiety to get his beloved 1's back.  He enlists his two entertaining and questionably popular besties (played by Christopher Meyer and Christopher Jordan Wallace) to help him and the three of them embark on a mission all over town and gang territory to get the holy grail of footwear back.

That is what's captured so coolly and is so visually gripping with this story.  It made a scenario that can happen more easily than not in the inner city appear a tad heartwarming and very relatable and found a redemptive moral in the things many of us often pass off as silly and fickle.  The film made a valid point about how, in the context of our own lives, when we stand up for what we believe in, work hard for and strongly desire, we find our true character and can uncover our dormant humanities.

Having grown up in the days of films like House Party, Juice, New Jack City, Boyz n The Hood and Menace 2 Society, I found "Kicks" to be a really good and honest modern film.  The directorial-debut from Mr. Tipping and the casting were great in the fluid blending of story, characters, imagery and music and the dialogue was honest and real like a page torn right out of a young city kid's book, not trying to save to world, but one who just unconsciously wants to and growth-wise needed to find his own voice and come out of his shell, but in turn discovered something about the world and his undiscovered strength in it.  

"KICKS" a film by Justin Tipping (Runtime: 87 mins) opens in select theaters nationwide tomorrow September 9.  




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