We’re living in a blockbuster culture dominated by franchises, so it’s easy to grow disillusioned with movies’ future. Thankfully, there are more outlets than ever before for stories that aren’t involved with saving the world from massive destruction. Sometimes just following characters for a day in their lives is enough to leave a strong impression. A good example is Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, which follows two young graffiti artists hoping to make their mark on the big stage. Their target is the plastic apple at Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. It rises every time they hit a home run and has remained the great white whale ever since it was successfully bombed decades earlier. It’s a naïve goal that may be impossible, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying to make it happen.
Sophia (Tatiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are teens with little money that look for ingenious ways to finance this project. Their rough-edged conversations reveal characters trying to prove they mean something. Sophia must demand to be heard, and words are her main weapons against the bullies around town. Malcolm is the softer side of the duo, but he’s also less responsible and tries to get by through charm. A key sequence involves him grabbing a drug dealer’s route and delivering the goods to a rich white girl (Zoe Lescaze). It’s clear that he’s nothing like the guys she usually meets (judging by her friends), and their bond feels genuine. They share a brief moment that won’t happen again, but it’s a charming interlude in a life filled with disappointments.
What makes Gimme the Loot work is the sense that we’re following Sophia and Malcolm through a typical day. This certainly isn’t their first big idea, and their neighborhood interactions seem genuine. They refuse to give up even when roadblocks appear. It’s a low-key production, and the non-professional actors are a hurdle. Leon’s dialogue seems forced at times, but the leads make it work. The final act drifts into comedy with a race against time that’s inept yet endearing. What comes out is the friendship between Sophia and Malcolm that could be more. They bond through their plans, but the outcome isn’t the point. It’s a believable relationship that fits within this natural world. There’s some meandering to get there, but the humanity connects in this down-to-earth world.
Gimme the Loot is currently streaming on Netflix in the US and Canada.