Special Notes:*(We are going to do this review a little bit different this time around. Inspired by the motion picture being reviewed, In a heading format, whatever heading is bold, make sure you listen to suggested song, during each segment of this review. Read, listen, and enjoy!)*
INTRO-J. Cole (Album: 2014 Forest Hills Dr.)
"Sometimes I wish I had a spaceship. Just hangout in space where its quiet; and no one could f*ck with me."
As the pulsating first frames of Justin Tipping's feature film debut Kicks begins, we see our main protagonist Brandon (Jahking Guillory) running from some kids in a basketball court in slow motion, during the dead of night. As the veins pop from Brandon's forehead, the sweat beads drip, and his pearly white teeth are clinch together desperately (in fear of being caught), one can't help but wonder, what exactly did Brandon do? A young, naive and innocent high school kid who just wants a pair of Jordan One's Bred (Black and Red), a kid who just wants to be accepted and treated equally as everyone else, and not be picked for his height, size, economic status and old, worn out sneakers, Brandon is tired of running. As the film unfolds, we never really know why Brandon is being chased, as one may quickly observe, there may very well be no good reason as to why he is being chased at all. In Big Bay, Richmond, California, Brandon runs away from everyone and everything. That is until, Brandon makes a fateful choice, which, in the course of two days, shifts his world in heart-beating and consequential ways.
Brandon is an obvious target for bullies; his stature is frail, his body is small, his mannerisms are delicate and his look is quite feminine. Yet, Brandon knows that there is still a shred of hope for him among his schoolmates, peers and on the street; and that is getting the pair of shoes he wants. As a young boy growing up in Toronto, Canada, the subculture of sneakers could never be as understood as the subculture of sneakers then, the subculture of sneaker culture now, especially within the modern ghetto's of the United States. Once you have some worthy 'kicks' (slang for shoes or fancy sneakers), it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your parents do or how you got them. All that matters is that, they're yours.
As we become submerged into Brandon's world, we are introduced to some of the important people in Brandon's life; his best friends Rico (Christopher Meyer), a ladies man who has his way with women; and wannabe ladies man Albert (Christopher Jodan-Wallace, son of Notorious B.I.G and Faith Evans) who talks endlessly about his questionable conquests with women. It soon becomes clear that, in the world of high school and gangsters in Big Bay, California, parents and adults are absent in the roles in their children's lives, and that's usually because of their dedication to their entry-level and minimum wage paying jobs to keep their low-income homes and families afloat. No parents are shown or introduced throughout the course of the film, even within the homes of each of our protagonists. It can only be suggested that Tipping sees the presence of parents as unimportant in the world of adolescents, especially since the streets of Brandon's hood are run and dominated by the high school bullies and low-level gangsters of the street blocks, which rings even more true during the hours of school. The adolescents in the film, as well as the rawness of these very real situations happening in every slum in America, are the true stars of Kicks.
Nikes- Frank Ocean (Album: Blonde)
Tipping, who almost simultaneously introduces each and every new character by zooming his camera onto their feet and shoes, does a masterful job of associating shoes with personas. Which makes for an interesting allegory of character, especially in the case of Brandon.
Brandon is an only-child, fifteen year old kid navigating through the rough terrain of ghetto America. So after countless rainy days spent on the corner of a busy intersection, combined with all the saved up "emergency" birthday money he has accumulated over the years, as well as the advice of his mother, the day that some hustling street salesmen by the name of Daryl (Mistah F.A.B), with a van full of Nike boxes entices Brandon over to his direction, Brandon is more than hooked.
Left paralyzed with the idea of popularity and acceptance on the streets, in his school, with his friends and most of all, with girls, Brandon buys his dream Nike's impulsively, spending all of the money he owns, including his money hustling on the street, for his Nike Jordan One's. Once purchased, Brandon gazes at the shoe-box on top of a vintage vinyl player, like an astronaut gazing out the window of his rocket-ship, looking at the stars, Brandon is in complete and utter awe.