15. Gimme The Loot

Director: Adam Leon
Stars: Tashiana Washington, Ty Hickson, Meeko, Zoe Lescaze, Sam Soghor

There’s a moment nearly halfway into writer-director Adam Leon’s feature film debut Gimme The Loot (which won SXSW’s Grand Jury prize for narrative movies) where its two leads, teenage NYC graffiti bombers Sophia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson), debate the efficiency full-member-sized condoms. Malcolm thinks that rubbers should just cover the “head,” like a “fitted cap”; Sophia, as in most of their chats, thinks he’s full of shit. It’s a very funny exchange that doesn’t feel scripted, mainly because of the actors’ naturalistic performances, and that’s what lifts Gimme The Loot above the threshold of excellence as a whole: The film always feels in-the-moment and real.

Living in the Bronx, and, as a result, pledging allegiance to the New York Yankees’ pinstripes, Sophia and Malcolm hatch a plan to “tag” the Mets Home Run Ball at the Queens-located Citi Field, an incredibly ambitious scheme that’s halted when Sophia gets robbed by members of a rival spray-can-toting gang. The theft inspires Malcolm to hatch a heist of his own, one that involves jacking a case of expensive jewelry from an upper-class floozy (Zoe Lescaze) to whom he recently brought drugs.

In Leon’s vibrant, warm, and consistently amusing film, the characters’ sticky-fingered, urban adventure itself ranks secondary to Gimme The Loot fluid direction and breathlessly witty dialogue, spoken by a squad of first-time performers who uniformly come off as real-deal people, not fictional creations. It’s every bit as authentic in spirit as Larry Clark’s similarly presented Kids (1995), only, with its amiability, it’s much more accessible.