Want a bracing alternative to the usual Hollywood swill? Try Gimme the Loot, a fresh, funky jolt of filmmaking joy. Made for peanuts on the streets of New York in less than a month, this exhilarating gift of a movie marks a stellar debut for writer-director Adam Leon, 31. Instead of the easy attitudinizing that is the default position for teen comedies, Gimme the Loot fills each frame with raw talent and exuberance.
Plot? It's two hard days' nights in the lives of Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington), teen graffiti artists on a mission. Back in the 1980s, burgeoning Banksys used to bomb the apple, meaning paint their tags on the giant apple that rose up at Shea Stadium whenever the Mets hit a homer. No one's pulled it o since. So Malcolm and Sofia are fired up to do it. Trouble is they need $500 to bribe a guard for access at Citi Field, the Mets' home since 2009. Like most indie filmmakers, including Leon, these outlaws will do anything to get the loot and get themselves in business.
That's the movie, a chain of scenes about two kids, paint cans in hand, eager to show their artistic cred. Never mind cops or gangs or a rival crew of Queens graffiti writers out for blood. Plenty of films wallow in spirit-killing. Leon celebrates defiance of all that. What's a few setbacks when you're having the time of your life?
The amateur status of Hickson and Washington only makes them seem more real, more compelling. They're stars in the making. Malcolm wants sex from Ginnie (a terrific Zoe Lescaze), the rich white girl buying his weed. Their scenes uncloak layers of class and race resentments. Likewise, the sublime Washington uncovers the chinks in Sofia's bravado, but still paints her as she is, an unstoppable force. Leon never oversells his movie. He reveals the bond between Malcolm and Sofia in the space between their words. That's the mark of a true filmmaker. Gimme more.