By Steven Rea
---- — A movie about teenage taggers in the Bronx should be fast and raw, scruffy and loose, and Adam Leon’s “Gimme the Loot” is just that.
Shot on a thrift-shop budget, with a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors, this two-days-in-the-life adventure is surprising and (dare I say?) charming, even if its amateurism seeps through. Or maybe because its amateurism seeps through.
Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) are graffiti artists, close friends who lift spray cans from stores and proudly leave their scrawl around town. When Sofia’s latest work gets defaced by a rival crew, the duo hatch an ambitious plan to “bomb the apple” — to tag the New York Mets’ Home Run Apple, the giant icon that rises from the ground at Citi Field.
But first they need $500.
And so, in a picaresque shamble from funky quadrants of the Bronx to upscale Manhattan neighborhoods, Malcolm and Sofia, with help from some friends (including hip-hop artist Meeko), go scamming and looting. (“Gimme the Loot” is authentically New York, from its graffitied corner bodegas to the strictly-for-swells parks of Sutton Place.) Malcolm runs off with some pot dealers’ weed and meets a rich stoner girl, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze), whom he kind of, maybe even falls in love with.
Though his and Sofia’s relationship isn’t romantic, a bit of jealousy, or possessiveness, or hurt does set in. And then Sofia has the ignoble assignment of tracking the girl as she runs up and down the East Side — keeping an eye on Ginnie as Malcolm tries (comically) to break into her apartment.
Hickson and Washington, he with his wide, mischievous grin, she with a scowl that turns to a smile and vice versa, keep “Gimme the Loot” going. The pair are scrappy and smart and riff off each other like a no-budget, indie version of Tracy and Hepburn. It’s impossible not to like them, and there’s absolutely no reason not to.
Directed by Adam Leon. With Ty Hickson, Tashiana Washington, Zoe Lescaze, and Meeko. Distributed by IFC Films.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 mins.
Parent’s guide: No MPAA rating (profanity, drugs, adult themes)