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Sam Lightnin' Hopkins
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When a rival gang buffs Malcolm and Sofia's latest graffiti masterpiece with a replica of the NY Mets home-run apple, they're determined to get spectacular revenge - by tagging the real Mets' apple. Over the course of a whirlwind two-day heat wave, these tough teens from the Bronx must hustle, scramble, and steal to execute the scheme that will make them the most famous writers in New York. Written by
Don't buy the shiny apples at the supermarket. The non-waxed versions have more flavor
A Jewish kid from trendy Greenwich Village embarks on making a film that shows the gritty underbelly of the Bronx, assisted by his high school chum, a NYC tour guide. One of the film's producers suggests using 2 white actors "to increase marketability", but the filmmakers resist, enlisting 2 mostly unknown African-American talents as well as an ex-con with no acting experience, all the while shooting covertly in many locations because they didn't have a film permit.
If that sounds like a wacky plot, it's not. That's the true backstory of "Gimmie the Loot" which, as a film, is no less quirky than the odd circumstances that spawned it. Shot on a micro budget of $65,000, the cinematography and authentic feel put it squarely in league with the big boys, if not a cut above, due to the filmmakers' intimacy with the city. Some shots were done with zoom lenses at a great distance so that the actors could seamlessly blend with the urban reality. Thus by removing the Hollywood polish from the apple, we get a true taste of what lies under the surface of New York City.
The plot, while quite original, isn't the focus of the film, but I'll tell it to you anyway. In the 20 years since a gang of graffiti artists attempted unsuccessfully to spray paint the Shea Stadium apple (an enormous prop that pops up whenever the Mets hit a home run), nobody has succeeded. Thus, to graffiti artists, or at least to our 2 main characters Malcom & Sophia, this caper is the urban equivalent of stealing the Hope Diamond. The movie follows 3 days in the lives of these 2 teenagers as they cook up their half-baked plan and set it in motion.
But the movie itself is far more than this. It gives us one of the most entertaining & charming views of the 'hood, yes, with its moments of menace & violence, but mostly in a light-hearted, enchanting way. This is a story of innocence in a not-so-innocent world, and it succeeds brilliantly. For example, Meeko the "ex-con" I mentioned in the 1st paragraph may frighten you at first with his imposing stature, forceful speaking and many tattoos, but he soon becomes one of the most entertaining, childlike criminal misfits you've ever seen. Watch the DVD bonus feature which features Meeko on a public access show "All City Hour" alongside Sam Soghor (the "tour guide" I mentioned above) being their hilarious selves.
Yes, the film has some great comedy, but it's not a laugh riot with punchlines galore. Instead the humor is low key like in "Pulp Fiction" with strange, almost surreal banter between the actors during tense situations. I absolutely loved the scene with Meeko & lead actor Ty Hickson pulling off a heist and suddenly stopping to argue about whether stairs begin at floor 1 or floor 2.
So even though the film has frequent references to drug use, drug dealing, robbery, gang violence, and oh yeah the F word used in practically every sentence, "Gimmie the Loot" is very much a sort of urban fairytale, full of innocence and naïve idealism, all encompassed by the gritty streets of the Bronx.
This film is a fantastic experience for anyone who likes watching interesting characters, impressive urban scenery, and exotic cultures... even if those exotic cultures are in your own back yard. I feel comfortable mentioning "Gimmie the Loot" in the same breath as the foreign masterpieces "Bicycle Thieves" (1948), "Alice in the Cities" (1974), and "The Summer of Kikujiro" (1999).
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