It’s a late August afternoon and the teenage stars of the Tribeca Film Festival standout Kicks are milling around the downtown Los Angeles sneaker spot RIF, perusing walls lined with colorful, plastic-wrapped Jordans, Kobes, LeBrons, and KDs. The conversation quickly turns to one star athlete whose signature shoes are notably missing from the wall: Steph Curry.

“Only old white dudes fuck with the Stephs,” says Christopher Jordan “C.J.” Wallace, the 19-year-old son of the late Notorious B.I.G and singer Faith Evans.

“Those are not cute,” snaps Christopher Meyer, who's wearing black Vivienne Westwood sneakers.

“He’s not a hip guy,” Jahking Guillory chimes in. “Before the game, bro don’t look fly. He looks like, ‘Aw, I just show up to work.’”

“He’s got that Tim Duncan young swag: ‘I came here to shoot threes and that’s that,” says Meyer. “Tim Duncan—you know he shop at Old Navy.”

Guillory, Meyer, and Wallace are riffing with the careless ease of young stars-to-be who know that their big break—the release of Kicks on Sept. 8—is just weeks away. Set in the Bay Area, Kicks centers on Brandon (Guillory), a poor teen whose bummy appearance makes him a target of ridicule. He finally gets his hands on a pair of the classic “Bred” Air Jordan Is (just re-released last week), which boost his self-confidence and social status—until a group of older teens jump him and steal them right off his feet. Bloodied, emasculated, and humiliated, Brandon recruits his boys Albert (Wallace) and Rico (Meyer) to set out down an increasingly dark and violent path to get them back. What follows is a powerful exploration of the cultural importance of sneakers, how aggression and masculine pride often go hand in hand, and the endless cycle of violence in the inner city.

Co-written and directed by 31-year-old first-time filmmaker Justin Tipping, Kicks is a bright spot in 2016’s slate of movies, a film with heavy hip-hop influences and an eye-opening example of the brilliance that can come from new perspectives, eschewing the traditional Hollywood model, and a fresh, diverse cast. 

Also Watch