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Gimme the Loot

Posted by martinteller on May 6, 2013

Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) are two Bronx teenagers, looking to make a name for themselves as taggers… graffiti artists who try to get their personalized logo seen throughout the city.  The Holy Grail of taggers is to “bomb the Apple” in Shea Stadium, a giant apple that rises up every time the Mets get a home run.  Malcolm knows a guy who works security at the stadium, and for $500 he’ll let them in to take a crack at it.  All they need now is $500.  It’ll be a hectic quest, involving rival taggers, bicycle thieves, drug deals, unscrupulous fences, breaking and entering, and a prep school girl (Zoe Lescaze) whose charms — and jewelry — catch Malcolm’s attention.

Adam Leon’s debut feature is an absolute delight.  There is a vibrant freshness to it that recalls the first films of other New York indie directors like Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, Cassavetes’s Shadows or Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It… but without the awkwardness that sometimes hamstrings those efforts.  It’s wonderfully relaxed and self-assured.  The script flows so naturally that one wonders how much, if any, of it was improvised.  These characters feel like the real deal, carving out a niche in their New York, trying to square their shoulders and stand up to a world that’s bigger than them.  But it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and these kids haven’t yet developed the rough edges to make it in the cutthroat jungle.  Their sweetness still shines through.  Like the would-be criminals of the Poitier/Cosby movies or Bottle Rocket or Band of Outsiders (I thought of Godard more than once… the meeting between Hickson and Lescaze recalls the bedroom scene in Breathless in its breezy joys) we don’t really want them to succeed, but we want to enjoy the comedy of their struggles… and hope that no one gets seriously hurt.

And it’s a beautifully comic film, full of sharp exchanges, funny situations and enjoyable details.  Malcolm spends half the picture running around with no shoes on.  Hickson and Washington are real finds, both of them completely charming and believable.  Their dreams may be small but their spirits are large… and their banter is often hilarious.  Also immensely entertaining is Meeko as Champion, their criminal mentor who just ends up causing them more trouble.

With a fantastic soundtrack (that knows when to back off for conversation), confident editing and cinematography, stellar performances, wit and suspense and a lot of heart, this is a film that swept me off my feet and didn’t let me touch ground until the credits rolled.  I’ll be buying this one for my personal collection and looking forward to whatever Leon does next.  Rating: Great (90)

IMDb
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