Equally affable as they are gruff, Sophie and Malcolm hustle the streets by day. By night, they’re a relentless tag-teaming duo. Literally, they tag the streets of New York, leaving their mark as would-be graffiti masterminds.
When some Mets fans start spray-painting over their turf, Sophie and Malcolm come up with the idea to break into Citi Field and “bomb” — that is, paint over — the Mets’ iconic Home Run Apple to get back at the perpetrators. All they need to pull off the scheme is $500.
A few roadblocks pop up on their way to this particular big apple. Malcolm (Ty Hickson) cleverly swipes some weed after being fired by his supplier, and sells to the rich, artsy stoner Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze), who proves to be more alluring than Malcolm expected. After a few hours at her apartment and a brief make-out session, Malcolm is infatuated, while Ginnie remains unaffected.
Sophie (Tashiana Washington, Ice Age: Continental Drift) takes to the streets to make some quick cash from various places. As a woman in this setting, she has to deal with the sexist backlash from going it alone. She also has to work twice as hard as her male counterpart, but fights back to the best of her abilities.
After being prompted by Sophie, Malcolm decides to go through with their plans to sneak into Ginnie’s apartment to grab some valuables to trade in for their much-needed cash. But plans go awry, and each move they make further separates them from their original goal.
Titled after The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 track, Gimme the Loot — running Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art — succeeds in making New York look fresh. The film, shot primarily in the Bronx and Greenwich Village, confronts reality, but not in the gritty style one might expect from a movie about graffiti-inclined hustlers. Sophie and Malcolm are equally developed characters — one is not complete without the other.
In his feature debut, writer-director Adam Leon turns otherwise shady situations into charming dialogue. Sophie councils heartbroken Ronaldo (James Harris Jr.), who actually owes her money, while Malcolm’s clingy drug-dealer associate, Lenny (Sam Soghor), just wants to discuss the absurdity of wearing flip-flops in NYC.
Opportunism is ubiquitous here. The characters take what they can from the other, whether the objective is weed, expensive sneakers, money, attention or friendship, and the characters — nearly all performed by newcomers — are just as uncompromising as their environment. Gimme the Loot is realism re-imagined. It puts humanity into hustling, and at times, the story verges on heartwarming.
At age 31, Leon sets a new standard for coming-of-age films in its honest representation of youth, race, gender and class in NYC. Imitations most likely will follow.