Adam Leon wrote and directed this independent movie about two friends who hatch a plot for graffiti immortality. Their desire of outlaw fame seduces them into pulling a theft. Think of this as a low-budget, lower class caper movie that lovingly treats NYC as both a familiar and exotic locale.
We’re not drifting among the denizens of some foreign locale like Monte Carlo. We’re not dressed up in tuxes and gowns and going to black tie events in New York City.
We’re in part of NYC and we’re dressed down in baggy white T-shirts and long cargo shorts. Sophia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are friends. Their friendship is based on their tagging their territory. They are a team, a team with a dream: To tag the Home Run Apple at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, located in the borough of Queens. The New York Yankees are based in the Bronx.
This particular Apple has never been tagged and that makes it the dream of every New York City tagger, a means for making a name for oneself in a world that largely ignores you and your kind. Malcolm has a plan, a connection, but they need $500 dollars to make it happen. In their world, that amount of money seems almost impossible to raise yet both friends go about raising the money separately.
In his first feature Leon takes us through a city divided by baseball teams (Mets versus Yankees) and class. Yet in a city where people take the subway and walk, people of all classes, all races and all ethnicities rub shoulders daily. It takes a certain type of compartmentalization to ignore the other.
Sophia and Malcolm are seeing their territory threatened by another team of taggers, but this turf war isn’t violent. There are no guns, no shootings and no chase scenes with screeching tires. Sophia and Malcolm don’t own wheels and one doubts that they even know how to drive.
Malcolm occasionally works for a drug dealer but this isn’t the deadly kind of enterprise as you can witness in “Breaking Bad.” This is a low-key marijuana delivery service and Malcolm cons his way into work delivering to a bored white rich girl, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze). She’s got time on her hands and wants a discount. Malcolm is black but not unattractive. Both are, in their own ways, scamming each other. Although Malcolm thinks he’s in love, he’s not above casing her apartment for future gain.
The plot thickens. Malcolm enlists an older more experienced man, Champion (Meeko) to break into the rich girl’s penthouse apartment while Sophia keeps tabs on Ginnie during her daily run. Ginnie takes long confident strides. Sophia can’t keep up and there’s plenty that can and does go wrong.
Yet we don’t feel sorry for their target Ginnie. She’s just as much a greedy participant in this city of cheaters and thieves. Her life is driven by money just as everyone else’s and there is no honor amongst thieves. That’s what makes Malcolm and Sophia’s friendship so special, so important, even when they are pretending to be what they are not.
Leon won the Independent Spirit Awards someone to watch. The movie also won the grand jury Best Narrative Feature at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival. Filled with non-professional actors, the movie builds upon the natural openness of its two leads and takes us on an emotional journey, one filled with frustration, but is no less worthy a quest, no less important a dream than the one mythic quests of heroes of the past. On their quest, Malcolm and Sophia take us through parts of NYC that you won’t see on any visitors tour, but are just as much a part of its character.
“Gimme the Loot” is available VoD on Amazon Instant Video.