SPIKE LEE'S 1989 breakthrough Do the Right Thing still reverberates through American cinema, influencing more than a few filmmakers—including, I suspect, writer/director Adam Leon, the man behind Gimme the Loot. Unfortunately, Leon is no Lee: His characters aren't nearly as convincing, and the script lacks the passion and vision it needs to be effective.
Gimme the Loot follows two teens from the Bronx, Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington), both of whom are avid graffiti artists and drug dealers. When a rival gang smears their latest tag, Malcolm and Sofia decide to get revenge by tagging the most viewed New York icon—the giant Home Run Apple of the New York Mets' Citi Field. But they need $500 to do so, which sends them on a weekend-long journey of selling weed, stealing, and screwing people over, all laced with cheeky repartee.
Though their banter starts off funny and charming, it doesn't provide us much insight into who these characters really are. Like Do the Right Thing, Gimme the Loot aims for a slice-of-life portrayal of New York, but thanks to a few lukewarm portrayals, we don't experience enough of Malcolm or Sofia's anger or hurt to get sucked into their lives. Too often, Gimme the Loot feels more like an "Above the Influence" commercial, rather than an honest account of two kids trying to get by. (By the time we see Malcolm and a wealthy blonde Manhattanite smoking weed and making out on her bed, I was wondering when Mr. Raditch would come in and talk to these troubled teens about making the right choices on this very special episode of Degrassi.) By the time Gimme the Loot ends, we don't know much more about Sophia and Malcolm than when we started—and nothing seems to be terribly different for them, either.