Gimme the Loot (2012) Poster

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A Very Foreign Film... Set in New York!
soncoman24 April 2012
When most people think of foreign film, they think of films in a language they don't understand, locations they've never been to, actors they've never heard of, and stories unique to a specific culture. We often fail to acknowledge that there are places and cultures within our own borders that can be just as foreign to us as any Asian or European community.

"Gimme the Loot," which is playing at the San Francisco International Film Festival, is just such a film. Set in New York City's Borough of the Bronx (talk about a foreign land!) the film tells the story of Malcolm and Sofia, a "tagging team" that set their sights on the greatest "bombing" target in the history of New York graffiti. All they need is $500 to get access to the sight. And so the adventure begins…

And that is just what this film really is – an urban adventure story. The story of two young people who set out on a trek and what happens to them along the way. If you're put off by the setting, or the language (which seems to have been scripted by David Mamet in the opening scene,) or the "Maguffin" of the graffiti bomb, please don't be. All those things are ancillary in this tale of the challenges in navigating the foreign land of inner city New York and what happens along the way. It's a funny, harsh, sweet, heartbreaking and oddly (though not unexpectedly) optimistic movie. For all the wrongdoing the couple perpetrate in their attempt to achieve their goal, you end up really liking the characters and kind of wishing they succeed.

The two lead actors, Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington, are terrific in their roles. While their inexperience shows through at times, for the most part they ARE Malcolm and Sophia. The director, Adam Leon, assured the Festival audience that they are both nothing like their characters ("Ty actually wears bow ties all the time.")

Leon also had the advantage of having a former NYC tour guide work as his location scout, so the film transports you into parts of New York that you'd never get to see get to see on your standard city excursion. Shot on location over 21 days, every setting seems just right for this story.

Special note should also be given to the soundtrack, which is absolutely what you would NOT expect for a story with characters of their age and environment. One would expect a plethora of hip hop or rap pulsing throughout the film, but be prepared for something just a little different.

This is writer/director Leon's first feature and he's manages to deliver a film that, while small in budget, is big in heart. Well worth seeking out…
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Good Slice of Life
Dfree5226 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this yesterday in NYC at MOMA, invited by a friend. This is a good effort by first time director (and screen writer) Adam Leon.

(The Following Contains Spoilers)

It follows a young (late teen age to early twenties) pair of graffiti artists efforts to make the big time by 'bombing' the NY Mets Big Apple Homerun attraction at Citifield. Bombing means to graffiti it. The problem is they need to raise $500 to bribe a security guard. Their efforts are further complicated by a lack of planning and a mixture of dumb/bad luck.

The young duo are Malcolm (Tysheeb Hickson) and the tomboyish, street tough Sofia (Tashiana R. Washington). We follow them throughout the hot summer days of the Bronx, downtown Manhattan and Queens as they try to reach their goal.

This is told in a straightforward, stripped down style by director Leon. It's refreshing in it's not hokey or trying to make a statement. It's done so with a great deal of humor as both leads are endearing. It's also not a coming of age tale. The characters act and react within their world and since they know little else the time we spend with them is their norm. Also of note is Zoe Lescaze as Ginnie; the fleeting object of Malcolm's desire.

All of them, Leon, Hickson, Washington and Lescaze are very talented and it's hoped that this is a fine jump off to successful careers.
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Don't buy the shiny apples at the supermarket. The non-waxed versions have more flavor
rooprect14 May 2014
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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Not bad. Imperfect but charming.
jbar1929 May 2013
The best thing about this flick is the real people. Almost all of these actors seemed like regular folks. The accents were 100% genuine. I especially liked how everyone was very opinionated about the Yankees vs. Mets thing.

I loved how the movie gave you the feeling of what it's like to be in NYC and go from one adventure to another.

The 2 leads were fantastic; interesting, funny, and easy to relate to. They stole the movie.

The only thing wrong with the movie was it's lack of ending. Plus, the introduction of romance seemed like an attempt to show some sort of resolution. It came off as cute but a little hackneyed.

Well made, well acted, keeps you interested then... it's over and you're like, "So are they dating? Are they gonna get into Shea stadium? Was the blonde chick cool or an a jerk?" etc

This is a surprisingly charming movie. You end up rooting for the characters even though there isn't too much to the story.
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Pleasantly Surprising Indie
gavin694216 September 2013
When their latest work is buffed by a rival crew, two determined graffiti writers embark on an elaborate plan to bomb the ultimate location: the New York Mets' Home Run Apple.

For his feature film debut, director Adam Leon has really hit a home run his first time out of the gate. He was previously a production assistant for Woody Allen and somehow got Jonathan Demme to "present" this film (although what exactly this means is unclear), which will hopefully get it a little extra attention. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

Being a Midwesterner, I have no experience with graffiti wars, New York City, and general lower class big city culture. That made me worry I would not be able to identify with the characters. On the contrary, I found them very universal -- the goal of tagging a sign was foreign, but the bonds of friendship were not. And that is the real strength of this picture, is watching the two main characters grow as their endless stream of misadventures blow up in their faces.

Even their mentor or idol, Champion, is something of a lost cause and is amusing in his own hopeless way. He claims to be something of a master criminal, but fails miserably when presented with a lock to pick -- and creates enough noise that the police could be alerted at any second!

The romance angle never fully plays out, but this in some ways adds to the picture. Ginnie is quite the quirky character, and I would not be surprised if we saw actress Zoë Lescaze using this performance to launch a bigger acting career. (As of now, it seems she is working at the New York Observer, free of any acting responsibilities.)

In short, I hope people find this one and give it a chance. I think there is plenty to love about it, and I stand behind everyone involved 100%
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Great character-work, wish the story didn't meander so much.
Sergeant_Tibbs16 October 2013
Every so often we get a film made by young passionate filmmakers that offers us a fresh perspective on an overlooked aspect of society that speaks to everyone in an entertaining, powerful and mature way. Gimme The Loot is very close to being that film this year. Although it attempts for a realistic view, it's still very textured, capturing these few hot summer days in brilliant voyeuristic wides. While its rich in character, it does suffer on the story side. Although it has a simple setup of goal and problem, their journey to solving the problem feels meandering and unfocused, drifting away from their desires too often. However, the character work is brilliant, especially due to the great performances from Hickson and especially Washington, it does a great job of humanising these vandals. It's just a shame that it doesn't feel like it's paid off what it set up in the end.

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An unexpected little gem
Although by no means expected, the main heroes of this fab little indie are amongst my all time favourite small time crooks.

We follow the trials of two young misfits whose plans seem to go from bad to worse where instead of giving up they keep coming up with more scams or more plans for further scams. An interesting without a doubt portrayal of certain elements within metropolitan societies where by influence, neglect and lack of alternatives are pushed into this sort of perpetual circle.

Their personalities are so delightful, that the audience will bypass the fact that they are in fact miniature criminals or accomplishes.

Simplicity in filmmaking creates a documentary type experience with substance. It deserves to be seen, talked about, even studied.
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Goofy gangster fun
octopusluke17 April 2013
--Review originally published at

Jam-packed with lofty art-house endeavours, CPH PIX Film Festival proves it has a soft-spot for feel good cinema with presentation of Adam Leon's impressive, Kickstarter funded debut, Gimme the Loot.

Presented by The Silence of the Lambs' director Jonathan Demme, the SXSW favourite is a platonic relationship comedy about a pair of aspiring, Bronx-based graffiti artists, Sofia (Tashiana Washingthon) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson). Discovering that a rival gang has trashed their turf, the pair hatch a plan to 'bomb the apple', AKA to tag the New York Mets' Home Run Apple at Citi Field stadium. It's a tough, nonsensical mission – the likes of which have been attempted in real life for the last twenty years, to no avail – but one that our teenage whippersnappers think they have the prowess to conquer. But first they need to raise $500 as a bribe for a guard at the ballpark.

And so sets off a picaresque pursuit for the dollar. Candidly shot across New York's Bronx and Manhattan neighborhoods (presumably without production permits), they hoist in a little help from their small-time gangster buddies for a series of heists and loots. Apparently anything sells in New York, so the savvy Sofia pawns off half empty spray cans, second-hand cell phones and used Nike sneaks while, a few blocks away, the scrappy Malcolm goes rogue with a pot dealers' weed and sells the stash to rich BoHo chick, Ginnie (Zoe Lescaze, looking much like a young Sissy Spacek). Invited in for a little tomfoolery, the inexperienced Malcolm is instantly besotted with her, but it won't stop him from swiping her extensive jewellery collection.

Allegedly taking influence from Raymond Abrashkin's iconic 1953 Coney Island classic Little Fugitive, writer-director Leon tells the featherweight story with tremendous zeal and a curiously observational approach, that is more akin to the French New Wave than the typical American indy. His New York is not of the resplendent Woody Allen persuasion, nor that of Scorsese's foggy urban sprawl. If anything, Leon presents the city like the warts-and-all melting pot that it really is, which is once again reflected in the diverse soundtrack's blend of R&B, experimental rock and original East Coast hip-hop.

While the graffiti surface story stinks of adolescent desperation, it is very much a red herring to the real story of oblivious teenage angst and love. Their first starring roles, newcomers Washington and Hickson have an exuberant chemistry together, which makes their covertly flirtatious banter and naturalistic prattling all the more charming, and the stagnated climax at the very least tolerable.

Gimme the Loot is somewhat of a rarity. Nonjudgemental of his protagonists, Leon's debut is a sweet natured gangster flick which neither glorifies thug life nor condemns it. It's slight, knowingly goofy filmmaking – the likes of which are so rare in modern, message-laden cinema - and proves the young débutant, his impressive cast and cinematographer Jonathan Miller as promising future talents.

--Review originally published at
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Good stuff!
Melanie Martinsson20 September 2013
What you can expect here is a very happy, upbeat yet disturbingly accurate depiction of how a lovestory in a graffitiwriting community works. Something to watch with your girlfriend :)

Think; Realism with a happy soundtrack.

I am seriously impressed with the acting talent and the direction here, not to mention the soundtrack. There are not that many Graff movies around, sadly. Let alone anyone that upbeat, save for this pearl right here. And as such this one pretty much automatically is up there with such other great Graff titles as Quality Of Life, and Bomb The System. Just got a tip about this very movie tonight actually, from one of my crewmates,and when it rains, it pours.

Make it an indie flick at that. I hear It's crowdfunded??? Much respect to that. I am impressed, and hope forward to see more work from mr. Leon and the rest of the great actors/actresses in this movie.

They really GET that awkward feeling when you are an awesome writer.... and you step into a room full of girls, where your behearted is also sitting at, you know?

-MonstreOne, VSDL crew, Sweden.-
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A fabulous movie about friendship, set on the streets of New York.
bbickley13-921-5866428 February 2015
The Bronx is alive with this film.

This is the neighborhood that I came up in. It's so actuate to the New York flavor and it was filmed right in my upbringing.

It starts on the streets of the Bronx and spreads all over the place, the village, Queens, etc. It hits the mark of everything New York is now.

And the cinematography helps to give it that realness.

Two best friends plan to graffiti bomb the Mets Home Run Apple by getting enough money to bribe a friend to let them into Shea stadium(not Citi field(perfect). They'll gonna get this money anyway they can.

But the movie is about more than this, It's about being a teenager and having a relationship with the only person on the planet who gets you.

Malcolm is lucky cause when I was his age my Significant other was a dude, he got pretty girl in Sofia who was as gangsta as she was pretty.

The movie is all about capturing this moment, and using the city as a beautiful background. It made me relate more, but who doesn't known what it's like to have a friend to battle the world with.

Loved it! This is my New York!!
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Gimme The Loot - brief
Vultural ~29 October 2014
Graffiti artists Malcolm and Sophia labor all night on a new mural, only to see it completely tagged and defaced the next day by rival gangs. Their newest "exhibition" entails sneaking into Mets ballpark and tag the home run sign. Oh, yeah, and they need $500. Needing proves far different from getting. Bleak comedy trails the rather amoral pair as they steal cans of spray paint, only to get robbed and hustled themselves. Great sense of place, especially for those who think New York is Sex And The City, or other such candy floss. Gimme The Loot is a refreshing dose of reality. Quite a fun show. Note: Might want to get subtitles. Bits of the dialogue hard to follow sometimes.
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kosmasp16 February 2018
As another reviewer already mentioned, the character work (acting) is really good. It's a bit unfortunate that the story takes a back seat to it all. But maybe you get smitten by the actors and don't mind so much about the thin plot. I have to admit they feel so real, you could be excused thinking they just play themselves and not a character.

But the downside to this would be: some may feel that the characters are quite annoying. And I would get that sentiment too. In this case, because there is not that much to spoil, you may want to watch the trailer and see if the characters speak to you. If you "feel" them, then go ahead and watch the movie. It really comes down to that.
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You grow to love and hate the characters. Great film!
Bruce Walton Jr14 October 2014
What I loved most about this film is that it didn't take anything extra or special to make the film great. There wasn't a lot of special effects etc. it was just raw. Almost felt like a documentary. I was able to get very involved with story. I was also able to get a real feel for the characters. They definitely grew on me. Stories like this make you start rooting for the characters whether they are wrong or right and also teach you about some of the small things in life. It brings you back to that old Hip-Hop feel. I love everything about this film. One thing that I heard about this film is that the director waited about a year or so before he got the character for Sophia. That says a lot about how he in visioned the film and who he wanted the characters to be. The more reason to know that this film is not just telling a story but it is moving art. I don't know why but I was just blown away by the realness. Thanks to everyone involved. I hope to some day make a film like this. Definitely a must see.
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The worst film I've seen this year. And I've seen Olympus Has Fallen.
francishooks4 July 2013
There's a great novel by Perceval Everett called Erasure in which a black academic, for his own idle amusement, writes a deliberately offensive and obnoxious "ghetto" novella peopled entirely by dreadful lowlife thieves and drug dealers. Predictably the book becomes a hit with white critics and audiences.

This repellent film put me in mind of it. The 2 protagonists are a pair of obnoxious thieves and drug dealers. Not even 20 minutes has elapsed before the female character has stolen a kid's phone and the other is shoveling someone's goods into his pockets just minutes after being admitted to their apartment.

But hey! It's okay, they are "charming" and "likeable" – they're graffiti artists so that makes them creative types so it's all okay! I'm not entirely sure but I think this is supposed to be a comedy. It isn't. The protagonists do nothing but bellow profanities at each other.

Apparently the film was shot over 21 days. I would cry very few tears indeed if that fate befell everyone involved in this junk.
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Gimme the Loot
politic198322 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes, it's not always good to read too much about a film before you go to see it. When entering the cinema, I was already at the point of expecting a film with some good graffiti action, with a plot thrown around it. But, as the film went on, I became more and more disappointed.

The plot is simple: Adam Leon starts with a clip from 'All City Hour', in which writers talk about tagging the Mets' apple at Shea Field, sorry Citi Field. Seeking revenge on a rival gang, two writers, Sofia and Malcolm, look to make a name for themselves by achieving this very feat. Needing $500 for a blind eye to be turned to gain access to the stadium, the pair take to the streets to try and hustle up the money.

What follows is a two-day journey around the city in a similar style to 'Kids', as the duo repeatedly struggle to raise the cash. This is where my expectations went missing. What I'd read about the film made me expect a lot of graffiti, a bit of a tagging war and maybe a bit of Notorious B.I.G.. Instead, the film is more about the failings of the two leads – and for me, this is the film's failing.

The two leads, Sofia, played by Tashiana Washington, and Malcolm, by Ty Hickson, don't particularly live up to their image: Sofia, while described by Malcolm as being hard and tough, spends a lot of her time naively getting scammed and played for a fool by people of all ages, with whiney shouting her only reaction; Malcolm, among fellow taggers, seems to command respect and sometimes fear, as if he got the juice – to use a Nineties phrase – though again spends much of the film foolishly, coming across as a bit of an idiot. Being that this is such a character- led story, it needed some stronger characters.

Though, with this, perhaps Leon is trying to create more realistic characters, full of flaws and inconsistencies, making them seem like the ordinary idiots you know. With the cast and director not having the longest careers in film on their CVs, there is a slightly amateurish feel throughout, that gives it a charm, but also some drawbacks. 'Gimme the Loot' is not a bad film, and has its moments, though by the end it's not wholly satisfying and leaves one feeling of 'gimme a little more.'
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A showcase for some very promising talents
Roland E. Zwick8 December 2013
Melodrama is easy; it's real-life that is hard - to depict on screen, that is.

The low-budget independent comedy/drama "Gimme the Loot" proves that when you have a talented director and cast to work with - even with limited resources - it can be done.

The movie features two streetwise kids, Malcolm and Sophia, who scrape by on grifting and scamming in a world full of grifters and scammers, with time out for the occasional drug sale or corner store heist just to keep life interesting. Their greatest kicks, however, lie in getting their spray paint cans out and emblazoning a wall with their artwork. They're clearly a product of the environment in which they've been raised. Sophia, in particular, takes no guff from the equally streetwise people who try to do to her what she does to others. She knows the rules of the streets better than any of them, and she's not about to let anyone else get the upper hand over her. Malcolm seems to be a bit more of a novice when it comes to mastering the territory, but his innate charm, goofy, disarming smile, and lanky awkwardness are crucial elements in his getting what he wants from others. Malcolm and Sophia are platonic best friends from way back, but they banter and bicker and complete one another like an old married couple.

"Gimme the Loot'"s greatest triumph lies in making two characters, who should by all rights be fairly loathsome based on what they do, wholly likable and appealing to the audience. This is due in no smart measure to the extraordinarily engaging performances by Ty Hickson and Tatiana Washington whose relaxed naturalism gives the film that air of freshness and authenticity so crucial to making it work. It's the verisimilitude that draws us in and the believability that keeps us there.

The same goes for its neophyte writer/director, Adam Leon, who deftly captures the idiosyncrasies and rhythms of the New York City neighborhood in which it all takes place.

The movie also makes some subtle observations about race and class in Malcolm's encounters with a white college girl who clearly wants to be a part of the 'hood culture, yet can't help but convey an air of superiority to both him and it.

"Gimme the Loot" doesn't have much of a "plot" in the conventional sense of that term. The movie merely chronicles a few days in the lives of these two very specific individuals. No big drama. No epiphanies or soul-shattering events. Just life as it is.
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Mubz29 November 2013
Graffiti art duo, Malcolm (Hickson) and Sofia (Washington), constantly find their work besmirched by rival crews. However, in the pursuit of acclaim in the street art circuit, they embark on an elaborate plan to 'bomb' the ultimate location: the New York Mets' Home Run Apple.

Like the creative forces this film depicts, be it in street art, skills on the basketball court, or delivering bars of lyrical mastery, it is drenched in innovation and meaning. There are few moments that will fail to make you feel something. It is not all about the desire to make some statement in return for street-cred, nor is it too heavily founded upon the obstacles of an impoverished background. Art takes the lead, it has meaning, it is the fuel that drives Malcolm and Sofia, like so many others, and it is appreciated and celebrated so stylishly here that you can't help but enjoy the film.

The rapport between the two protagonists is delightful, a perfect balance of that awkward young love feeling, and the crude wittiness of true friendship. Every fourth word is a profanity, and almost every line has a quip, but each is as funny as the last. The story doesn't rewrite any rulebooks, but its charm transcends its simplicity leaving something fresh. The actual story, that is 'bombing' the Mets' Apple, takes a back seat to the human relationships and the vibrant street life of New York. It effortlessly captures locale and character alike, simultaneously exposing the fragility of youthful ego and the effervescence of 'street' competition.

Verdict: Hipper than a Sugarhill Gang beat with enough profanity to warrant several swear jars, this is a film of ingenuity and charm. Lovingly crafted and effortlessly performed, Leon's debut is a success exhibiting cinematic excellence.
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