The streets of New York City are alive in the SXSW hit “Gimme The Loot,” the endearing and charmingly unpretentious first feature from director Adam Leon. The film seems to move to the beat of jangling spray paint cans, particularly those in the deep pockets of Malcolm and Sofia. These two high schoolers, first seen stealing a cache of spraypaint bottles from a local marketplace, have a dedicedly old-fashioned plan, one that would make any New Yorker smile and shake their head — they’re going to “bomb” the Mets’ apple in Citifield.
There’s a loaded concept behind their intentions. Sofia, irritable as if she’s aware she’s growing into a conventionally pretty girl, seeks revenge on the rest of the world. She’s too tomboyish for the girls, in baggy shorts and t-shirts, wearing a perma-scowl and constantly getting into scraps with local boys. Malcolm, on the other hand, announces his roots loudly when he keeps referring to Citifield as Shea Stadium, the former home of the Mets demolished years ago. His refusal to own up to the team’s more corporate modern surroundings says as much about that franchise’s financial corruption as much as it does Malcolm’s political leanings. He just wants to desecrate the apple, a sign of Shea prosperity Frankensteined onto the impersonal touch of Citifield. If you asked these two, its likely neither is a sports fan.
To accomplish their goal, however, Sofia and Malcolm are going to need to rustle up $500 just to get into the stadium. And as much as their lives are driven by phones and technology, they realize they have to hit the pavement, both encountering a nasty spell of bad luck. Sofia doesn’t find any success amongst all the brutes she encounters, none interested in robbing her of her feminimity as much as her status, as she makes her way up and down Manhattan streets collecting debts. In a quiet moment, she’s forced to play a bookie to a disaffected teen who’s been stuck in bed for days with a broken heart. Sofia shows surface sympathy towards the boy, who comically towers over her despite wiping away tears, before she snatches his sneakers to collect on her owed money. It’s the luckiest she’ll get all day.
Malcolm has an even more illicit source of income, dealing pot to upper class white customers. When he ends up at a young girl’s apartment, his quest for cash is momentarily sidelined. Malcolm is thin, attractive and talkative, and he can’t help but flirt with this flaky young debutante asking him to “smoke her up” and to admire her bare feet. Impulsive to the core, he ends up gabbing his way into her arms, fooling himself into thinking that he’s not Malcolm, dealer by day and bomber per night, but Malcolm, man on the fast track to smooth lovin’.
The duo end up in even more debt than they were before, leading to a harebrained scheme where they enlist local strongman Champion to assist them in a big score destined to go wrong. Champion is played by a gutter-voiced first-time actor named Meeko, a genuine find in a film loaded with exciting discoveries. With broad shoulders, a pitter-patter shotgun voice and a tattoo that stretches across his face, he recalls an extremely lucid Mike Tyson, prone to misused malapropisms and grandiose statements of achievement. His scenes are brief, but he absolutely steals the film as the comic highlight, both endearingly goofy but also achingly familiar, the looney tune at the back of your local bodega screaming about how they don’t have his favorite milk.
Most every scene is carried by Ty Hickson and Tashiana R. Washington, and both give warm, delightful performances. While there’s clearly meant to be romantic tension between the two of them, they bounce off each other wonderfully, completely convincing as two distinct personalities who have immense familiarity with each other. “Gimme The Loot” involves drug-dealing, constant foul language and vandalism, but Hickson and Washington, both attractive and charismatic enough to be stars, carry the film with an air of lightweight pleasure, keeping it light and bouncy. IFC will be releasing “Gimme The Loot” stateside, and if they put some muscle behind it, expect a lot of buzz to surround this charming confection. [A-]
This is a reprint of our review from the New Directors/New Films series in New York City in 2012.