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I doubt that many have heard of the film Kicks starring up and coming actor, Jahking Guillory but that is something that needs to change because it is by far one of the best movies 2016 has produced. Visually stunning with nuanced performances from an almost unrecognizable (albeit extremely talented cast), and a script that does not underestimate the viewer, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this film so grand. It definitely boils down to the decisions director, Justin Tipping made. Hard to believe that this is his directorial debut as it is riddled with that of a seasoned pro. Tipping also co-wrote the story. This is one of those films that could have easily been completely different under different direction, but it is his vision that made this movie what it is, that much is clear.

15 year old Brandon is scrawny, poor, and quiet. He is used to being the doormat next to his larger than life best friend’s Alvin and Rico. His initial narration of what his life is like is heartbreaking as he describes how he’s used to not having nice things. When a chance presents itself, Brandon is purchases a pair of black and red Air Jordan 1’s for a more than reasonable price. I’m not going to pretend that I understand the significance of a pair of shoes like these, especially to a kid like Brandon who has so few possessions that he can call his own. It should be noted that “Alvin’s got the sixes and Rico’s the threes” – Alvin is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace (Everything Must Go (2010)) and Rico played by Christopher Meyer (Fox TV’s Wayward Pines).

I truly believe how you receive Kicks is based on whether or not you can grasp the fact that while shoes may be something you wear on your feet for some, to others they are a social status, items that kids live and die for. One of my favorite things about this movie is that Brandon often imagines a floating astronaut in full gear, you can’t see this person’s face but they float around above the overpass, when Brandon is attacked, and even in his dreams. It could be a coping mechanism so he can take himself out of this moment, I’m not quite sure…but there is something haunting about it.

After Brandon’s shoes are stolen, he essentially initiates a war in his pursuit to retrieve them all while the astronaut floats about. Watching him walk up his house steps with nothing but his socks and then to see him wear his mother’s house slippers the next day, you feel for him. “They not just shoes, they J’s”- Brandon says. To understand the importance of shoes, Alvin stresses “You don’t f**k with another n***a’s J’s”-Alvin

I was reading a few comments on the YouTube video trailer of Kicks (even though internet comments are usually the worst, often times you can weed out the bad ones to get good idea of how first impressions outside of your own) and wasn’t surprised to note that many were disgusted with how this film was “glorifying” capitalism, celebrating the act of violence, and all in all just an unrealistic plot in the first place.

To that I must say that this is a magnified glass on several very important issues that are intertwined in the black and Latino communities as well as lower income groups. Kicks highlights how the status of something as small as what you wear on your feet can tell other people how to treat you (no matter where you live), the hyper masculinity and pressure to appear “tough” so you don’t get hurt, and it explains how these kids have to survive in a world where some of the rules many of us are used to, don’t apply. The plot itself is not unrealistic to me because kids get jumped for their shoes every day all across the country. When people are bullied, there’s a point in which some they snap and retaliate. For Brandon, the snapping point was when his beloved kicks were jacked.

Some of the music in Kicks was listed during different scenes; I have compiled a list below:

Nikes on My Feet – Nas
Fresh to Death – Jay Z
Tell Me When to Go – E40
Get Hyphy – Too Short
Get Stupid – Mac Dre
Good Kid Mad City – Kendrick Lamar

Kicks is streaming now on the following services:
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