Film Review: ‘Gimme the Loot’

Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson play Bronx graffiti artists in "Gimme the Loot," out today. CREDIT: IFC Films
Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson play Bronx graffiti artists in “Gimme the Loot,” out today.
CREDIT: IFC Films

‘Gimme the Loot’
Director: Adam Leon
Stars: Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington
Rating:
2 (out of 5) Globes

Adam Leon’s feature debut “Gimme the Loot” is affably unremarkable, making it equally hard to love or loathe. Bronx teens Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) sublimate potential romantic attraction into their shared obsession: graffiti. Their dream object is to tag the fiberglass apple that pops up at CitiField when the Mets hit a home run, but they need $500 to bribe a night security guard to let them in. Unfolding over a baggy 48-hour-period rather than the standard 24-hour coming-of-age time frame, the loose plot’s designed to maximize detail-light hanging-out rather than dramatic tension.

Grasping at financial straws, the duo seem to be in luck when part-time pot delivery mule Malcolm makes a run to college girl Ginnie’s (Zoe Lescaze) apartment on the Lower West Side and notices an enormous jewelry collection. Ginnie gets frisky, but Malcolm has to cut and run before angry dealer Donnie (Adam Metzger) catches up with him. He figures that getting back in to finish his coital business and grab the jewels afterwards will be simple enough. In the only scene that’s remotely uncomfortable, he returns for a second delivery to find Ginnie with drunk, feckless over-rich girl friends who mock him — an ugly assertion of social class, sealing his resolve to grab the gems.

It’s a sharply unpleasant moment, but most of “Gimme the Loot” is meant to soothe. There’s a notable lack of movies about non-white teens in New York City having a good time rather than suffering or sinking into a life of crime. In that respect, Leon’s film resembles Peter Sollett’s similarly good-natured 2002 “Raising Victor Vargas.” But that film had a more immersive texture, more assured leads and better tossed-off, couldn’t-make-that-up overheard dialogue. It was funny and warm, a party of a movie, but Leon’s film is lukewarm and strangely vague, with a pair who fail to connect on-screen.

The location shooting is nicely rough-and-ready (if oddly Manhattan-centric), but Leon’s biggest asset is non-pro Meeko Gattuso as Champion, the pair’s mildly criminal, heavily tattooed mentor. Whether complaining about a cigar store’s lack of selection (“They ain’t got no dutches?”) or fumblingly failing to pick a lock, his real-life ex-con credibility and natural rough charisma spark up the screen. Leon deserves credit for broadening the normally narrow spectrum of non-white teens on screen, but the film’s too anodyne to leave a mark.


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