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'Gimme the Loot' mines class, race and friendship

'Gimme the Loot' writer-director Adam Leon has a marvelous eye for blending staged dramatic sequences into documentary settings, which lets his actors work up their distinctive rhythms.

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'Gimme the Loot' stars Tashiana Washington (l.) and Ty Hickson (r.).

Courtesy of IFC Films

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I see so many independent movies that sometimes, when an indie movie comes along that really is independent – that is to say, when it offers up a fresh new way of seeing – I blink twice.

Writer-director Adam Leon’s feature debut, “Gimme the Loot,” which takes place in the Bronx over two hot summer days, is just such a film. It had good buzz at Cannes last year, and it’s been making the festival circuit to rightful acclaim. From the sound of it, it might be mistaken for yet another micro-budget gabfest about self-absorbed teenagers.

Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are bickering buddies and fellow graffiti guerrillas. They want to one-up a rival gang of taggers by decorating (or defacing, depending on your point of view) the giant Home Run Apple that pops up at the New York MetsCiti Field whenever the home team knocks one out. To do this, they need to scrounge $500 to bribe their way inside the stadium (hence the film’s title).

It soon becomes clear that their quest for cash, which takes the form of cadging money at illicit bodegas and selling marijuana, is getting them nowhere fast. It’s also clear that, for Leon, it’s the quest and not the payoff that matters. Sofia and Malcolm are avid but hopelessly inept con artists.

The movie is not about scoring and tagging; it’s about the romantic connection between Sofia and Malcolm. It’s a character movie, not a caper movie. The duo’s connection is romantic without being carnal. Although it’s obvious that Malcolm is enamored of Sofia, he can’t quite let on to her (or himself) about it. The attraction on his part is obvious: Sofia is pretty and sharp and sassy. He, on the other hand, is so gangly and cooled-out that their collusion seems almost contrapuntal. She’s staccato; he’s legato.

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