Tashiana R. Washington stars as Sofia and Tysheeb Hickson stars as Malcolm in Sundance Selects' Gimme the Loot (2013)
(Photo : Sundance Selects)
When audiences think of a revenge film, they think of guns and shootouts filled with plenty of action sequences and over the top music. However for his directional debut "Gimme the Loot," Adam Leon subverts the revenge premise by transforming it into a subtle urban drama.
The film, starring new comers Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington (How to Make it in America), tells the story of Sofia and Malcolm, two determined graffiti writers who embark on an elaborate plan to bomb the New York Mets' Home Run Apple after their latest graffiti work is defiled up by a rival crew.
Malcolm gets access to the stadium but with the condition that they pay $500 dollars. As a result each one of them embarks on a separate journey to help collect the money. Malcolm goes to his former drug boss Donnie to get work. He is unsuccessful and reverts to stealing the drugs from one of his co-workers. In the meantime Sofia goes through all her resources in search of the money. She attempts to collect a debt from an old friend but has to settle for his shoes. Like Malcolm she constantly fails as her bicycle and money she collects for the shoes and spray paint bottles are stolen.
At the center of the film are two characters in the midst of their adolescence attempting to carve out an identity for themselves. Malcolm constantly tries to emphasize his masculinity but fails at every turn to fully command that identity. His attempt to lure a rich girl is stopped by the arrival of his drug boss and his return to finish the work he started is met with rejection. Meanwhile Sofia seems to struggle with her feminine identity and the tomboy perception everyone seems to have of her. The most potent arc in the film is the increasing sexual tension between Malcolm and Sofia. Early on there is no indication of romantic interest between the two, but a pivotal scene in which Sofia's jealousy subtly betrays her becomes the turning point in the relationship for both of the characters and the viewers. From this point forward, the audience's concentration shifts from wanting to see the couple "bomb" the Mets' apple to seeing them admit their feelings to one another.
What is so enjoyable about the film is the pacing and energy. The film gets off to a running start with Sofia and Malcolm stealing spray paint from a convenience store. The early crime is ironically the only they will ultimately get away with. Leon inserts a brilliant heist scene in the middle of the film as Malcolm and an associate attempt to break into an apartment to steal jewelry. Each of these sequences is brought to life with the use of the moving camera and by the brilliant 90s music selection.
Another one of the films finest assets was the use of the camera and its documentary style, which ultimately made this film come off as more realistic. Cinematographer Jonathon Miller's Camera takes the audience from various touchstone locations in New York City to the ghetto neighborhoods; a brilliant juxtaposition that emphasizes the dreams of glory shared by the protagonists. One of the most impressive shot sequences in the film is when Malcolm and Sofia walk through a heavily crowded park in which the two blend so well. The shot only demonstrates their insignificance to the rest of the world and their inability to succeed. Adding to the gritty style are the long takes on dialogue scenes. Close-ups are virtually non-existent in this film with all of the conversations framed in wide and medium shots. The lack of editing throughout the scenes enhances the performances and draws the audience closer to the characters.
Leon's film is both dramatic, and comedic and his ability to keep such difficult subject matters light-hearted is a compliment to his directing skills. With such a successful first film, it will be interesting what else he has in store.