Many TV shows and movies feature a pair of close friends, but rarely are those onscreen friendships healthy. Usually, the characters are feeding off each other’s problems and bickering with each other. In a refreshing change-up, Gimme the Loot features two leads who work to build each other up despite their differences.
Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are teenagers looking to make a mark on the graffiti scene of New York. They’re struggling for respect, and after their mural is vandalized by other painters, the pair concocts a plan to get respect by tagging the Big Apple balloon in the heart of Met Stadium. Very public and flashy, the stunt is something no other street artist has done before. It is no easy feat, but they find a guy who knows a guy who can sneak them in. The catch is that they must procure some serious money to get him to risk his job. Gimme the Loot follows our dynamic duo through the highs and lows of their mission.
Sofia is a strong leading lady, holding her own against the male-dominated world of graffiti artists and tough guys. Malcolm switches between playing a goof and then a ladies’ man, in true over-confident adolescent style. At one point, their master plan depends solely on Malcolm’s ability to con a well-off middle-class student to get the needed money for the payoff. Malcolm puts on a big show of prowess, but we can see his confidence deflate in Sofia’s no-nonsense presence. But they’re still kids, each learning from their own mistakes. Sofia isn’t interested in Malcolm as a crush, but still seeks his approval. In the same way, Malcolm tries to solve issues in order to please or impress Sofia. But the two play off each more comfortably in teasing jokes. The rapport flows naturally between the two, with an always-ready answer for the latest quip.
The performances from Hickson and Washington are incredibly heartfelt and sincere. The movie runs on their kinetic energy, and if it wasn’t so neatly edited, Gimme the Loot could play like a documentary. In a scene where Sofia’s bike is stolen, the camera runs right down the street with her. It looks around for the bike, like a poor documentarian losing his subject, before focusing back on Sofia’s angry face. It’s this kind of fevered pace that gives the right sense of urgency needed to communicate the rush the characters feel in the throes of the project.
An astoundingly spirited debut from director, Adam Leon, Gimme the Loot keeps a youthful faith in the endless possibilities of the future. But the movie also stays grounded in the realities of struggling, up-and-coming artists. It’s human and hopeful, never letting the tone get too cynical or bitter. Leon’s film embeds a mature friendship in the story of two teen graffiti artists trying to pull off the biggest graffiti tag in the Bronx. Much more grownup than it looks, Gimme the Loot is that rare teen-centric film whose brisk pace is unburdened by sentimentality.
Director: Adam Leon
Writer: Adam Leon
Starring: Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington, Joshua Rivera
Release Date: Mar. 22, 2013