“Gimme the Loot,” the writing-directing debut of Adam Leon, chronicles two days in the life of two Bronx teenagers who conspire to “bomb” the Apple. But don’t worry: This by turns larky and streetwise New York picaresque doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Rather, the protagonists in question — teenaged graffiti artists Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) — aspire to tag the huge plastic apple that appears every time the Mets hit a home run at Shea Stadium.
And make no mistake: The Mets play at Shea — not Citi Field or any other bastion of corporate naming rights — in a movie that pays exhilarating homage to the fugitive joys of New York at its summer-stickiest and most old-school.
Filmed in a style that recalls the spontaneity and careful composition of Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, “Gimme the Loot” possesses every potential pitfall of a mannered, pseudo-tough urban crime flick. But Leon subverts that expectation, making his lead characters less miscreants than mischief-makers, who mask their fears and continual failures of nerve behind profane bravado and unconvincing swagger.
All that posing and vulgarity (watch out for carpet f-bombs) would be insufferable were Malcolm and Sofia not as endearing as they are, especially when brought to life by the appealing Hickson and Washington, who easily capture the bantering put-downs of best friendship that just might be leading to something more. Zoe Lescaze is less persuasive as a young woman who sends Malcolm mixed signals while buying marijuana from him, and at times the movie betrays a slightly amateurish awkwardness.
But on the whole, “Gimme the Loot” keeps aloft on a potent cloud of alert, affectionate energy and good vibes. At a time when movie audiences are asked to accept an escalating arms race in screen carnage and aggression, Leon offers the balm of warmth and optimism, all the more welcome for being so unexpected. Like its characters, “Gimme the Loot” may seem tough on the outside, but it’s got a heart of gold.
Unrated. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains pervasive profanity, drug use, brief sexuality and mature themes. 81 minutes.