Gimme the Loot (2012) — Image via diaphana.fr

Gimme the Loot

Directed by Adam Leon (2012)

Adam Leon’s 2012 Gimme the Loot is a warm and nuanced portrayal of the friendship and potential romance of two Bronx based teenaged graffiti artists, Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson). The energy that passes between the two young actors manages to be both aggressive and relaxed at the same time, and one has no trouble believing that the pair has been friends since childhood. Gimme the Loot sympathetically depicts the need to steal, scheme, and deal drugs in order to support one’s art, but more profoundly, the film is about Malcolm’s journey from ambivalence to a sweet and fumbling certainty.

Early on, the film presents archival footage from what appears to be a public access program called All City Hour. In a short clip a graffiti artist tells a story about how he and his fellow artists were arrested while attempting to paint (bomb) the apple, a giant figurine of an apple that is displayed when a player from the New York Mets hits a home run. We are then informed that this episode of All City Hour was shot and aired twenty years ago, and since then, no one has been able to bomb the apple, making it a sort of prized location amongst graffiti artists. In order to gain the respect of a group of Queens-based graffiti artists who have painted over (buffed) their latest creation, Sofia and Malcolm decide that they must bomb the apple, and the film revolves around their attempt to raise the five hundred dollars necessary to pay off Pedro, a man who allegedly can give them access to the apple.

Gimme the Loot (2012) — Image via diaphana.frSofia, who initially seems the more focused and capable of the pair, scrambles together cash in a variety of ways and is consistently robbed of that which she has earned or stolen. Malcolm, who is often accused by Sofia of doing more talking than acting, works as a marijuana delivery man and stumbles into what appears to be good luck when he delivers to a rich “private school girl” named Ginnie (Zoë Lescaze). Ginnie, who answers the door in a state of disheveled bewilderment, initially appears well-intentioned if a little naïve about her privilege and all that exists outside of it (despite that the fact that the walls of her apartment are lined floor to ceiling with books). After inviting Malcolm to share a smoke with her, the two chat about topics that appear mundane, but are meant to illustrate the immense gulf between their class backgrounds. When asked his favorite food, Malcolm replies “milkshakes” to Ginnie’s “oysters.” When asked if he’s traveled, Malcolm says that he’s been to Florida, whereas Ginnie recites a laundry list of places she’s visited, including India and a slew of European destinations. To her and the Leon’s credit, Ginnie does not initially treat Malcolm with any sort of purposeful or overt condescension, which would have been an easy directorial choice given her obvious wealth and education. While she does come off as a little ridiculous at times (her bedroom is papered in posters and bumper stickers bearing revolutionary sentiments, although one gets the sense that she understands poor people only in as much as she has read about them in school), she also affords Malcolm the same level of complexity with which she regards herself, as illustrated when she earnestly tells Malcolm that she “bets he would like” the places she has visited and kisses him with what seems like genuine affection or, at least, desire.

After his interaction with Ginnie, which is cut short when Malcolm’s irate boss shows up at her apartment looking for him, Malcolm is conflicted about whether he wants to pursue a sexual relationship with Ginnie or rob her apartment for the five hundred dollars that would allow him and Sofia to bomb the apple.

Malcolm’s favorable impression of Ginnie quickly evaporates when he is called back to deliver more weed to her apartment and he finds Ginnie among friends who seem to share her educational and class background. Ginnie is cold and dismissive, and when she refers to Malcolm as “the drug dealer” instead of by name, we see his illusions dashed in a brilliant portrayal of awkward disbelief. In the scene that follows, Malcolm, grasping for conversation topics, mentions his plan to bomb the apple to the room of neurotic, scantily clad, undernourished, and stoned white girls. He is not rewarded for trusting them to tread lightly around his dreams, as Ginnie tells him outright that bombing the apple is “fucking retarded,” eliciting his anger and solidifying his decision to break into her apartment to finance the project. While the scene is a hard one to watch, it is an important one in that Malcolm unambiguously defends both his art and his right to exist. He leaves the apartment hurt, but with a concrete sense of purpose and a newfound appreciation for people he can rely upon to remain consistent.

Gimme the Loot (2012) — Image via diaphana.frGimme the Loot is as much about Malcolm overcoming his ambivalence as anything else. Throughout the film he vacillates on how to handle his and Sofia’s rivals, his desire to bomb the apple, and his feelings for Ginnie and for Sofia. In a way, Ginnie’s repeated snubs are the impetus he needs to begin to act. After her second scornful rejection of him when he tries to ensure that she hasn’t injured herself while swimming in a rooftop water tank, Malcolm finds himself able to tell Sofia how he feels about her (albeit in a roundabout way) and also, in what may not sound like a heroic act, but certainly feels like one in the world of the film, is able to steal flowers from a roadside stand to give to his mother for her birthday. Similarly, although the plans to rob Ginnie’s apartment and pay Pedro the necessary money to bomb the apple fall through, what is notable is that Malcolm is finally making decisions and acting upon them.

In the final scene of the film, Malcolm offers Sofia a flower from his pilfered bouquet, a poignant gesture seeing as we have watched Sofia have nearly everything she touches throughout the film taken from her. The two share a meaningful look, but not a kiss (as was the case during Malcolm and Ginnie’s first encounter) and this withholding somehow feels right and is ultimately more satisfying than a kiss would be. The pacing of Malcolm’s and Sofia’s interactions has been frenetic throughout the film, with the dialogue delivered as a volley of insults at a pace that belies their profound understanding of each other as well as the comfort they feel in one another’s presence. One gets the sense that at the end of the film they both need some time to step back from one another, slow down, and proceed, not so much with caution, but with gentle mindfulness of what they are embarking upon.

They aren’t going to stumble upon an easy fortune, they both seem to realize. They aren’t going to bomb the apple, or prevent the group from Queens from buffing their art. Nor will they be seen as entirely legitimate by the Ginnies of the world. But, it seems that, perhaps, they have stumbled upon something more valuable, perhaps almost too late (as Malcolm is in remembering his mother’s birthday), but not quite.

Published by

Emily Anderson

is completing her Ph.D. in English at the University of Minnesota. She teaches literature and writing at several local educational institutions.