Gimme the Loot

When graffiti artist buddies Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) find their latest artwork obscured by rivals, they have to come back in a big way. Inspired by an idea thrown out twenty years prior on cable access show All City Hour, Malcolm decides they have to tag the Big Apple that pops up when the Mets get a home run. It's never been done and the duo needs $500 to attempt it, so they each strike out with a plan in "Gimme the Loot."

Laura's Review: B+

Former Woody Allen PA, writer/director Adam Leon makes a terrific feature debut with a film that keeps shapeshifting. What begins as a revenge challenge set in the world of graffiti artistry strays into a caper film while evolving into a romance, stopping along the way for commentary on race and class. Even the film's soundtrack surprises, sidelining the expected rap and hiphop for retro R&B. The only thing wrong with Leon's film is its random title. The winner of the Indie Spirit 'One to Watch' award could never work again and will always have a memorable New York City film to his credit. Malcolm's first move is to visit the drug dealers he hasn't run for in three weeks, asking to borrow the money. He's heartily laughed out. Meanwhile Sofia seeks out Reynaldo and payment for the custom tee she made for his lady love but finds a heartbroken mess with no money. She makes off with his 'kicks' instead, but exits to find a robbery in progress - of her bike. Malcolm makes a delivery to a wealthy, white prep student, Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze), that begins very weirdly, then turns into something else, but when his dealers show up he leaves in such haste, his own sneakers are left behind. The sock-footed Malcolm tells Sofia he's in love, then finds himself back-pedalling with a plot to rob Ginnie and he's in for a rude awakening when he returns to her apartment. Leon doesn't just spin a beautifully constructed story that never goes where one expects, he's got a real ear for dialogue, often hilarious yet always natural and true to its speaker. Co-producer Sam Soghor goes on an entertaining diatribe about men wearing flip-flops as Lenny, one of Sofia's stops along her journey while another, Champion (Meeko), boasts of his criminal savvy while bungling every attempt. A matter-of-fact conversation about violent retribution and hte suckiness of the Mets in a pizza parlor within full earshot of the owner is like a light mini homage to Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing." One might also expect a low-budget indie to be shot hand-held, guerilla style, but no again - director of photography Jonathan Miller highlights character relationships and NYC neighborhoods with composition and crane shots. The film wraps with a scene that exemplifies these basically good and likable protagonists committing a crime for a sentimental reason that is perhaps it's only false note. And yet inexperienced actors Hickson and Washington sell it so well, "Gimme the Loot" can't help but leave one with a smile. It's a sparkling debut from a a filmmaker with a strong voice.

Robin's Review: B