2016, R, 80 min. Directed by Justin Tipping. Starring Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer, Kofi Siriboe, Mahershala Ali.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 16, 2016

Life can be hard, and more importantly, completely arbitrary. It’s difficult to pull back and examine the patterns when we’re all in the thick of it. So bless those geniuses who are able to do so, and by geniuses I mean the beloved mythologist Joseph Campbell, who so deftly expressed certain contributions to understanding the human condition, articulated most profoundly with the hero’s journey. Justin Tipping’s riveting debut has all the spirit and pacing of that journey, hitting most of Campbell’s tenets; it just happens to take place on the mean streets of Oakland, instead of, say Middle Earth, Hyrule, or a galaxy far, far away.

All Brandon (Guillory) wants is some shoes. He’s been wearing the same busted sneakers forever. A small kid with delicate features and a mane of curly hair, he’s bullied at school and his basketball skills come up short. But at least he has some friends, Rico (Meyer) and Albert (Wallace), who look out for him. Dreaming of owning a pair of original red and black Air Jordans, he happens upon the entrepreneurial spirit of a guy selling kicks out of his minivan, and lo and behold, there they are. Pilfering money from his mom (never seen, as most adults are in the film), he gets those Js, and for a short time he is the master of the universe. But Brandon gets jumped by a thug named Flaco (Siriboe), who steals those magical shoes. Brandon, fed up and wearing his mom’s flip-flops, ventures, with his friends, onto a road of trials that is Oakland to retrieve those shoes, and thus a quest begins.

Brandon’s odyssey, filtered through Tipping’s lens, is at times funny, harrowing, and well, somewhat annoying (way too much slow-mo), but the talent here is clear. In his feature debut, Tipping emerges as a strong voice with style to burn (maybe too much to burn: I haven’t even mentioned Brandon’s imaginary astronaut friend, but you need to discover that one on your own). At times derivative, lyrical, and ponderous, Kicks cannot be ignored. It’s a powerful debut from a director who knows how to capture a moment, and convey a rabid conviction to hold on to your beliefs. Joseph Campbell would approve.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Josh Kupecki
The Good House
Sigourney Weaver drags this addiction drama out of comfortable numbness

Sept. 30, 2022

Waiting for Bojangles
Ham-fisted literary adaptation loses everything interesting about the book

Sept. 2, 2022


Kicks, Justin Tipping, Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer, Kofi Siriboe, Mahershala Ali

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle