Movie Review - Gimme the Loot

Writer-director Adam Leon has a problem when in the middle of his movie, he has a character state that the premise of the movie is essentially stupid and there's no argument against it.

I thought the premise was inconsequential, but the performances sold me. It wasn't until the premise is dismissed that I realized that this movie was not the Ramin Bahrani or Spike Lee, New York City, slice-of-life drama that I at first felt. It's instead a teen comedy, but whereas most teen comedies focus on middle to upper-middle class, suburban families and the humor comes from those who don't have to worry about the kinds of things the kids here have to worry about, the humor here is opposite. It also isn't over-the-top as other comedies about poor black kids. It's more naturalistic.

Tashiana Washington stars as Sofia and Ty Hickson stars as Malcolm. They're two teenage, African-Americans in New York City who are graffiti artists who tag places around the city as "Sophia and Shakes." Unfortunately, their tags get spray-painted over by rival graffiti artists who don't respect them. In order to get respect, Sofia and Malcolm come up with the idea to "bomb the Apple." Sofia basically wants to spray-paint the Home Run Apple at Citi Field, the baseball stadium for the New York Mets.

In order to gain access to the stadium, they have to pay an inside guy $500. They don't have $500, so the movie is about them trying to raise that money, through legal but mostly illegal ways, including breaking into a rich, white girl's place and taking some jewelry.

The rich, white girl is named Ginnie, played by Zoë Lescaze. Malcolm first meets her and learns about her jewelry when he's sent to her apartment on a drug run. Ginnie buys marijuana and other drugs from the guy Malcolm knows. Malcolm surveys her apartment and doesn't tell her he's going to rob her but does tell her about bombing the Apple, which is the premise. Ginnie is then the character who states that this premise is essentially stupid and in that moment Malcolm can't dispute it.

Once Malcolm and Ginnie have that moment, there really is only one ending that makes sense or would feel right. If Malcolm or even Sofia could make a better argument for why they're doing what they're doing, then the ending would have had more resonance, but, as it is, the ending is rather flat.

What saves the movie is the performances from the young actors. Each one has a scene where each stands out. For Ty Hickson, it's a long, continuous take between him and Zoë Lescaze. The two sit on a bed and talk. They end up having a bet, which leads to an intimate moment. Both Hickson and Lescaze play it very well. For Tashiana Washington, it's another long, continuous take where Sofia walks away from a basketball court while fending off one boy as she attempts to woo another boy.

There's also a character that Malcolm and Sofia introduce to help them with the jewel heist. His name is Champion, played by Meeko, a Latino whose body is almost completely covered in tattoos. The scene where he is picking the lock to Ginnie's apartment is Meeko's best and by far the funniest scene in the movie. Its comedy that comes out of physical humor rather than the verbal humor that is the staple of the movie.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 19 mins.


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