Justin Tipping’s Kicks is a promising, if sometimes overly arty, debut. Brandon (Jahking Guillory) is a poor teenager in Richmond, Calif., who spends most of his time hanging with his pals Rico (Christopher Meyer) and Albert (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and is constantly getting teased for being short, and having longish hair, and coming from a family that can’t afford to buy him expensive shoes. As he puts it, he’s managed to avoid getting into fights since he can run fast, and when the shady opportunity arises to buy a pair of black-market Air Jordans, he has them for all of a day before they’re stolen by local alpha dog Flaco (Kofi Siriboe). Director Tipping has referred to Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief as a major influence on Kicks, though it’s far more dreamlike — literalizing his fantasies of finding solace elsewhere, Brandon is often watched over by an imaginary astronaut (Molly Shaiken) — and more resembles the myth of Orpheus, as Brendan descends further into a hell of toxic masculinity to retrieve his beloved (shoes). The way the female characters are largely non-entities is probably accurate to the world Tipping is portraying, though Kicks also offers an answer to one of the most perplexing mysteries of our time: Why are there shoes hanging from telephone wires?

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