It’s a strange thing to come across a film depicting the illegal activities of inner city youths and find it warmly enjoyable instead of enduring the usual harsh realities that are so often portrayed. However, Gimme The Loot is just that; lively, fun, witty and full of surprises.
The film opens with an aged clip of a group of New York graffiti artists discussing their obsession with tagging the Met’s Apple (a talisman of the team that appears in the stadium whenever the baseball team hit a home run). This challenge seems impossible, and it is one that, twenty years later, occupies the minds of two young graffiti artists looking to make a name for themselves. Over two days, Malcolm and Sofia set out to achieve what has never been achieved before, facing all manner of challenges in order to raise the money needed to get into the stadium and immortalise themselves as the greatest graffiti artists in New York City.
This caper narrative is less concerned with its direction than with its focus on the two central characters. Whilst this does mean that it lacks a certain amount of drive, bringing in sub-plots and minor stories that fail to conclude, this is by no means a terrible thing. Instead, what is left is a lovingly observed portrait of two young characters seeking their way in the world. Tashiana Washington and Ty Hudson as Sofia and Malcolm respectively are tasked with carrying the film, something which they are more than up to. Whilst Hudson’s performance as the confident Malcolm is somewhat forced and occasionally stilted, Washington’s performance could not be more successful. Sofia is strong, realistic and driven, with Washington delivering her witty dialogue with confidence and authenticity. Together, the two make an enjoyable pair to spend time with, thanks to their natural and endearing relationship, filled with as much friction as warmth like any believable friendship.
The film’s third principle character also takes pride of place within Gimme The Loot, namely the city of New York. This debut feature film from writer/director Adam Leon uses the city to full effect, incorporating both well-known landmarks as well as real locations in the Bronx to infuse the film with a real sense of place. The naturalistic, ground level camerawork follows the characters at a distance, allowing them to appear fully immersed within their hometown of NYC. Alongside the eclectic soundtrack of vintage blues, jazz and even gospel (a welcome departure from the aggressive hip hop that is so often used in films such as this), the city comes alive with a real personality, further supported by the many diverse characters the central pair meet along the way.
The meandering nature of Malcolm and Sofia’s journey through New York does lend itself to impatience at times, as each attempt to raise the money needed results in failure. The relaxed tone contrasts with the final moments of the film which in comparison seem to force some meaning into the film’s proceeding scenes when perhaps it should be more content to just allow the story to tell itself. However, this can be forgiven, as it is simply refreshing to see the troubled youth of lower classes having fun, accepting the trials that face them with humor instead of aggression. The comic sensibilities of minor criminality are handled nicely to portray the characters’ naivety and show that despite their bumbling efforts to commit immoral actions, these actions are just those of kids trying to make the best out of their situation. What’s left then is a thoroughly enjoyable, warm story that, instead of looking down on the activities of the lower classes, gives them meaning and personality.
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