Directed by: Adam Leon.
Written by: Adam Leon.
Starring: Tashiana Washington (Sofia), Ty Hickson (Malcolm), Meeko (Champion), Zoë Lescaze (Ginnie), Sam Soghor (Lenny), Adam Metzger (Donnie), Greyson Cruz (Alfonso), James Harris Jr. (Ronaldo), Joshua Rivera (Rico), Melvin Mogoli (Kaps).
What stands out to me about Gimme the Loot – a micro-budgeted indie by first time director Adam Leon – is the almost boundless energy of the movie. That’s rare for an indie film of this size – but Leon is more talented than most, and his film moves with the same reckless energy his two heroes have. The goal of Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) is to “Bomb the Apple” – the apple being that oversized one that comes out in the bleachers at Shea Stadium every time the Mets hit a homerun. They need money to finance this operation - $500 bucks – a lot of money for two poor kids from the Bronx, so they set about one scam after another to try and earn the money.
Annoyed that the drug dealers he sometimes delivers for won’t give him any product, Malcolm scams a fellow delivery boy out of his goods, and heads off to rich girl Ginnie’s (Zoe Lescaze) to try and make some quick money – as the two talk and flirt, he’s also casing the place to see what he’ll be able to steal. Meanwhile, Sofia tries to sell some of the things she’s recently stolen – spray paint, a cell phone, a pair of sneakers – to make some cash herself. Of course, things never quite go as planned, and as one scheme is thwarted, they come up with another one – and the movie follows them along.
Some will probably not be happy that the movie doesn’t judge or moralize this story of two people who are admittedly criminals. This is not a gritty, slice of life in the ghetto that feels sorry for its characters, but a film that simply acknowledges the realities of their lives, and then moves on. Yes, they’re criminals, who hang out with more criminals, but they’re basically good kids trying to pass the time.
The majority of the running time is spent with these two at their various scams – but the film is at its best when it slows down long enough to allow the characters to interact with each. True, Leon’s dialogue sounds like dialogue, and although the three principle actors are all very good for non-professionals, they are still non-professionals, and those surrounding them aren’t nearly as good.
But while Leon’s goal here is mainly to entertain, there are times when he does make some social commentary. The best scenes in the movie may well be between Malcolm and Ginnie – the rich white girl he sells drugs to. Their first interaction is playful and flirtatious – so much so that Malcolm thinks he’ll be able to go back and seduce her, while others can rob her apartment. But when he returns, she is no longer alone – and the scene is 180 degrees away from what it was before – with Ginnie turning cruel. Race and class separate these two in ways Malcolm didn’t quite understand at first.
And it’s also interesting to see how Sofia fits into the male dominated world he inhabits. She is filled with bravado – tries her best to act tough, and swears more than anyone else, but it’s basically a front – and she can hurt with just a few words from a loudmouth idiot standing behind a fence. The unspoken attraction between her and Malcolm makes up the heart of the movie – these two are, of course, perfect for each other – but to admit as much would require one of them to be vulnerable to the other – which neither may be willing to do.
Gimme the Loot is far from a perfect film. It follows a pretty straight forward, predictable arc, and as I mentioned the dialogue does feel like dialogue, and the acting can be uneven. But as a first film, the film works remarkably well. I expect bigger – and better – things from Leon in the future.