Rough around the edges but oozing with charm, debut filmmaker Adam Leon's _Gimme the Loot _will earn him a lot of attention. Part New York symphony, part character study, Leon paints a picture that whilst scrappy, is certainly distinctive. His film follows two goofball street kids, Malcom (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington,) as they bounce around New York, trying to raise funds in order to grafitti-bomb the Mets stadium's big apple, the behemoth tag target in NYC's graffiti underworld.
Leon, who served as an underling for Woody Allen before moving on to make his own films, displays something learnt from that comic monolith. Leon's film features the kind of snappy, sharp back and forth dialogues early found in early Woody Allen, though operating in an entirely different tone (Woody never used the n-word as much.) Adopting a distinctly guerilla method, Leon shoots on location around New York presumably without permit, using bug-mics to stage his dialogues amongst the cacophony of busy street locations. It gives an immediacy and authenticity to proceedings, the impression that they are real kids being filmed going about their day to day.
Gimme the Loot lives mostly on the strength of its dialogue and of its central pairing. Ty Hickson and a particularly impressive Tashiana Washington have brilliant chemistry, and manage to deliver their lines naturalistically, maintaining constant laughs throughout, and a sense of warmth that gives the film an irresistibility that overcomes its narrative shortcomings. As the two rob and steal their way across NYC, audience sympathy remains firmly with them, thanks to the pair's likeability and charisma.
As suggested, this partnership is what the film largely relies on. The narrative feels tacked around the duo's hijinks, and would be an unsatisfying film without them carrying it. Supporting turns don't add a great deal, though scenes with the girl who Malcom has a flirtation with before finding out she was just using him for drugs are amusing in their presentation of the appropriation of ghetto culture Leon (a white American) might be himself a little guilty of. Still, Leon evidently understands New York, and his film feels like the product of a residents love, rather than an eye looking in.
Despite the Biggie referencing title, Gimme the Loot's soundtrack is mostly old gospel and soul, whether that through authorial choice, or cost of clearance is unclear, but it is refreshing nonetheless. Indeed,a lot about Gimme the Loot is refreshing, it has the rawness and guerilla vibes of early Spike Lee, and the snappy dialogue exchanges of the best of Kevin Smith. While in the end it doesn't all click as perfectly as those filmmaker's best films, Clerks and _Do the Right the Thing, _as proof of future product it is impressive enough, and on its own terms, one of the most fun film experiences of the year.