Kicks is a stylistic look at the superficiality that makes a man.  It just takes a while for the audience to realize that.  Justin Tipping’s semi-autobiographical drama appears as a string of unused music videos, commercials, and MTV bumpers.  The imagery is powerful and at times disturbing, but the audience wonders if Kicks is merely all style and no substance.

A pivotal turning point in the film is when 15-year-old Brandon (Jahking Guillory) is beat up and robbed by local thugs.  The Air Jordans that brought Brandon striking confidence have been stripped from him, which easily signifies castration of his masculinity.  He’s a wreck, he’s angry, and he hunts down his enemy to prove himself.

The gorgeous look of the film and the simple screenplay are typical traits of a feature film debut – all thoughts have been pointed towards the visuals (including an imaginary astronaut who stays loyal to Brandon’s psyche).  This leaves Tipping and co-screenwriter Joshua Beirne-Gordon to fill any gaps in their script with tiresome nasty language and hood tropes.  However, underneath its seemingly shallow surface is poignancy about young men competing in a community of judgemental macho “inspirations”.  As Brandon ropes together violent contacts to establish a plan to find the whereabouts of shoe thief Flaco (Kofi Siriboe of TV’s Awkward.), the viewer witnesses Brandon stepping up in order to earn a respectful voice amongst his peers.  We realize how important this is for him, even though we don’t totally agree with his aggressive strategies.

The shocking truth in Kicks is what makes Justin Tipping’s debut stand out beyond its clichés.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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