Film Review: Gimme the Loot

Jam-packed with lofty art-house endeavours, CPH PIX Film Festival proves it has a soft-spot for feel good cinema with presentation of Adam Leon’s impressive, Kickstarter funded debut, Gimme the Loot. 

Presented by The Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme, the SXSW favourite is a platonic relationship comedy about a pair of aspiring, Bronx-based graffiti artists, Sofia (Tashiana Washingthon) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson). Discovering that a rival gang has trashed their turf, the pair hatch a plan to ‘bomb the apple’, AKA to tag the New York Mets’ Home Run Apple at Citi Field stadium. It’s a tough, nonsensical mission – the likes of which have been attempted in real life for the last twenty years, to no avail – but one that our teenage whippersnappers think they have the prowess to conquer. But first they need to raise $500 as a bribe for a guard at the ballpark.

And so sets off a picaresque pursuit for the dollar. Candidly shot across New York’s Bronx and Manhattan neighborhoods (presumably without production permits), they hoist in a little help from their small-time gangster buddies for a series of heists and loots. Apparently anything sells in New York, so the savvy Sofia pawns off  half empty spray cans, second-hand cell phones and used Nike sneaks while, a few blocks away, the scrappy Malcolm goes rogue with a pot dealers’ weed and sells the stash to rich BoHo chick, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze, looking much like a young Sissy Spacek). Invited in for a little tomfoolery, the inexperienced Malcolm is instantly besotted with her, but it won’t stop him from swiping her extensive jewellery collection.

Allegedly taking influence from Raymond Abrashkin’s iconic 1953 Coney Island classic Little Fugitive, writer-director Leon tells the featherweight story with tremendous zeal and a curiously observational approach, that is more akin to the French New Wave than the typical American indy. His New York is not of the resplendent Woody Allen persuasion, nor that of Scorsese’s foggy urban sprawl. If anything, Leon presents the city like the warts-and-all melting pot that it really is, which is once again reflected in the diverse soundtrack’s blend of R&B, experimental rock and original East Coast hip-hop.

While the graffiti surface story stinks of adolescent desperation, it is very much a red herring to the real story of oblivious teenage angst and love. Their first starring roles, newcomers Washington and Hickson have an exuberant chemistry together, which makes their covertly flirtatious banter and naturalistic prattling all the more charming, and the stagnated climax at the very least tolerable.

Gimme the Loot is somewhat of a rarity. Nonjudgemental of his protagonists, Leon’s debut is a sweet natured gangster flick which neither glorifies thug life nor condemns it. It’s slight, knowingly goofy filmmaking – the likes of which are so rare in modern, message-laden cinema – and proves the young debutant, his impressive cast and cinematographer Jonathan Miller as promising future talents.

★★★☆☆

Gimme the Loot is screened as part of CPH PIX Film Festival’s ‘American Indies’ series. Find out more, and book tickets, at the festival website.

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