Gimme the Loot is a comedy drama about a pair of young New York graffiti artists, Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington), who concoct a crazy scheme to try and tag the giant homerun apple in the New York Mets’ stadium. The film follows the pair as they try to raise enough money, through a number of dubious means, in order to pay a guy who will let them into the stadium on the sly. The film takes place over the course of a day, and it splits between the two protagonist’s stories early on only to ultimately bring the two together for a botched heist attempt somewhere near the middle.
I have conflicting feelings about this film. On one hand, I thought that it was enjoyable to watch as many of the scenes were quite hilarious, but on the other hand, a lot of what transpires in the film has a dark undertone that goes completely unaddressed. This left me feeling confused as to what I was supposed to take away from the film as I am still unsure if the murky tone was intentional on the end of the filmmakers.
I’ll start with the good points because I really did enjoy watching this film. It is incredibly funny, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the copious amount of unnecessarily vulgar dialogue, I thought the overall narrative was well realized.
There is an effort throughout Gimme the Loot to try and make everything feel authentic to the version of New York City urban life that is being portrayed; that is to say, nothing about this film is grand and one wouldn’t be wrong in calling it a slice of life drama. This is an approach I think is appropriate for a comedy focused film and while there is no attempt to try and make the events carry any sort of existential weight, I don’t fault the film for not caring about this because I think it would have been a mistake to try and do so with such frivolous subject matter.
Now for my frustrations; the film is quite dialogue heavy and I err on the side that says that this is generally a bad idea for a film if the dialogue heavy scenes aren’t dealing with any sort of subtext. In a way, this film would almost work entirely as a radio drama, which I can’t really say is a good thing.
The other major point of contention I have with the film is its portrayal of gender roles. Now stick with me, because I am about to start talking about feminism, but the film splits its focus between two protagonists, Malcolm and Sofia, and because they are of opposite genders you get a very gender conscious narrative for each one of them. For example, Malcolm’s side of the fund raising involves him selling weed to a rich white girl who he then tries to “seduce” so he can get her keys in order to rob her. Now Sofia basically spends the first half of the film getting robbed and being verbally harassed on a number of occasions. This is done in an effort to show how tough and resilient the character is, but that knowledge doesn’t change the fact that she gets the worst end of the whole deal.
Every male character in the film seeks to give her a hard time for being female, with the exception of a friend of hers who is trying to get with her romantically. Even Malcolm, who is essentially her best friend, is constantly teasing her until a moment near the end of the film where he eases up because he starts to admit that his feelings for her are deeper than just friendship.
Now what I have mentioned above probably doesn’t sound all that terrible to most of you, but that is exactly the point; this is fairly standard in terms of subject matter and in many ways, it stays true to reality, but that is part of my problem with it. This film’s light and funny tone affirms this deeply ingrained gender discrimination, and while I am not claiming that this film should have tried to help the cause of gender equality, I do argue that the filmmakers inadvertently tackled a larger cultural issue while trying to make a lighthearted comedy drama.
The best analogy I can think of to try and put this in perspective is this: imagine if this film was set in the 1960’s American south and featured two main characters of different racial backgrounds. One is white, and the other is black and the entire film they go around trying to do petty crime in order to raise money. Now imagine that the white character just has to deal with wacky hijinks involving botched plans, but the black character has to navigate segregation and the threat of racial violence; remember though, this a funny feel-good movie and there is no suggestion that what the black character has to go through is in any way worth acknowledging.
My intellectual gripes aside, it felt like the filmmakers were simply careless with their subject matter. They wanted to make the film as believable and realistic as possible, but they didn’t care to realize that the pursuit of realism came with real-world issues that didn’t fit with the overall tone they set out to achieve. It’s frustrating to me that I have to focus my review on this aspect, but this was the major thing that kept me from being able to just engage the film on the level that the filmmakers intended.
Reasons to go see it: This film is funny and enjoyable. It is defiantly charming enough to keep your attention the whole way through.
Reasons to avoid it: The filmmakers took a somewhat questionable approach when it came to the tone. This film has elements of comedy and drama, but it inadvertently stumbles over complex subject matter while trying to stay light and fluffy.
Verdict: I don’t feel like endorsing a modern film that is lazy and apathetic when it comes to social issues, which is why I wouldn’t tell anyone I personally know to go see this film, but should you happen to see it, you will probably enjoy the experience. Gimme the Loot is a film that just wants to be hip, young and urban and while it succeeds at that, it also brings with it all the filth attached to that naïve desire.
Reviewed by Frank Shuford