Fresh Performances Drive ‘Gimme the Loot’

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CHICAGO – The world of the movies is also a world of discovery. Like new, hot authors, the breakthrough directors emerge with an original first work that generates deserved attention. Writer/director Adam Leon has created that freshness in the his debut feature, “Gimme the Loot.”

This is an inspired urban comedy, with casting choices that are letter perfect. To think that New York City graffiti artists are looking to score the ultimate tag is a precious MacGuffin (the Alfred Hitchcock term for something in a film that seems important but doesn’t end up that way), and the foul mouthed pursuers of this truth measure the levels of their wackiness through a bizarre cityscape barometer. Writer/director Leon generated the fun through the grit of the mean streets and the dogged determination of the raw, winning performances from his cast.

Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) are hard-luck graffiti artists from the Bronx. The streets don’t give them a break and their latest masterpiece is marred by a rival gang. To get even, and get even more attention, they hatch a plan to tag a revered but silly New York City landmark. The problem is they need $500 to do it right.

Gimme the Loot
Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) in ‘Gimme the Loot
Photo credit: Sundance Selects

Thus begins their journey as procurers of the loot, which takes them all over the metropolis over the course of two summer days. Will they score with stolen sneakers, black market spray cans, a high stakes heist or through a beautiful society girl named Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze), who literally may hold the key to the whole scheme?

The depth of the film comes through its simplicity. The motivations are established early, and the filter for those motivations is the “heart of darkness” type journey the two protagonists enjoy. Actors Hickson and Washington are both blessed with a natural understanding of their streetwise characters, and their follow through on the personas is both frustrating as difficulties mount and achingly poignant. Washington’s character especially deserves a better fate sometimes, just for her nicely formulated sass.

Adam Leon is a native New York City citizen, and uses the urban landscape in high level snapshots of his hometown. This is a city where wealth and poverty – and all the spectrum of humanity in between – live side-by-side on a tiny island. Hickson and Washington seem to step through all the levels at once, pursuing one of the mighty reasons New York City exists, to show them the money.

Background characters are well cast, including Zoë Lescaze as the elusive Ginnie. She has the money and status, but longs to eschew it for a sense of reality. Malcolm and Sofia have none of that status, yet create their own reality in art. They are not that far apart in philosophy, and Leon sets up a tremendous encounter scene near the end, when the three characters are staring at each other, daringly absorbing the energy of their peculiar auras.

Gimme the Loot
Tagger Characters in ‘Gimme the Loot,’ Directed by Adam Leon
Photo credit: Sundance Selects

The use of symbols to represent cash, such as Ginnie’s object loot, the no-value branded sneakers and the icon that the graffiti artists want to tag, are all indicative of a society gone mad. The genius in all that is the subtlety, which makes the film so intriguing, funny and entertaining.

I nominate Malcolm and Sofia for the next edition of “Celebrity Apprentice.” It would be the ardent hope that they would make it to the winners chair, then turn around and fire the odious Donald Trump, or at least clean out his loot.

“Gimme the Loot” continues its limited release in Chicago on March 29th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Ty Hickson, Zoë Lecaze, Taishana Washington and Joshua Rivera. Written and directed by Adam Leon. Not Rated senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald,

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