Gimme the Loot doesn't do any wonders for New York City tourism. In fact, it may vindicate people who've always assumed the city to be a cesspool of crime (never mind that the stereotype is two decades out of date).
The movie focuses on Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson), two Bronx youths making a name for themselves as graffiti artists. Unfortunately, their best work usually gets tagged over by spiteful rival artists. Fed up, they launch a plan to "bomb" (an unfortunate word choice post-Boston) an icon of the city that appears in Citi Field whenever the Mets get a home run.
Malcolm knows someone who can get him and Sofia into the stadium, but it's going to cost $500. As the movie progresses, Malcolm and Sofia spend a couple of days lying, cheating and stealing their way through friends, associates and anyone else to reach their goal. Sofia grabs sneakers and cellphones in order to sell them for cash, while Malcolm snatches up a few bags of weed to sell from the dealer who just fired him. As Sofia spends most of her journey getting hustled and robbed herself, Malcolm has a better time hanging out, flirting and eventually making out with Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze), a privileged white chick who buys weed off him.
Gimme the Loot succeeds at being adorably amoral, with one character even contemplating pulling scams on old ladies. It's hard for me to even imagine responsible adult audiences (especially around here) rooting for the two leads, a couple of foul-mouthed punk kids who bicker about wet dreams and whether or not condoms suck, when they're not committing petty offenses—and dancing around their feelings for one another.
And, yet, this movie's very entertaining. For his very low-budget ($200,000) debut, writer/director Adam Leon makes a spirited teen comedy with predominantly minority characters, which is damn near amazing in itself. Considering the fact that Leon is white, his view of inner-city youth as small-time crooks could be seen as stereotypical or even condescending—just as Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin, who's white, got flak last year for making a movie about poor black folk. Then again, the movie's title does come from the Notorious B.I.G.'s seminal ode to armed robbery. The soundtrack is littered with so many doo-wop-infused, R&B oldies, I wouldn't be surprised if Leon is a fan of New York's long-running oldies radio show "Rhythm Revue."
Gimme the Loot is more authentic than most coming-of-age films. The exterior shots create a bristling, vibrant and, more important, multicultural vision of New York that you can easily get lost in. Since many of us have learned about the culture of New York City mostly from Woody Allen movies, Seinfeld and the Sex and the City juggernaut, it's easy to forget that New York is more than just Manhattan. It's Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx. It's pizza parlors, bodegas and cigar shops that never have vanilla Dutches. It's water towers—otherwise known as "ghetto swimming pools." It's the continually raging war between Mets and Yankees fans. And it's kids running around the whole damn place, hustling and bustling, talking in those Noo Yawk accents, treating the city like it's their own never-ending playground.
Gimme the Loot may scare off future visitors to New York City, but it'll certainly make those who grew up there homesick as hell.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Bombing the system."