- Text by Shelley Jones
Making a movie about New York is like making a pizza with cheese. As a city where anything and everything happens pretty much all the time, New York has become the leading lady of modern cinema set in the West.
But a new movie by first-time feature director and born-and-bred New Yorker Adam Leon has breathed new life into a played-out genre. Gimme The Loot focuses on two hoodrat graffiti writers on one crazy day in the Bronx. We caught up with Leon before the UK release of his great debut.
You’ve said that you wanted to show the fun side of working-class kids in the Bronx. Why is it problematic to always represent that demographic as troubled?
Right, exactly. In some ways I think that can really compartmentalise those kinds of kids. I hope, in some ways, [Gimme The Loot] can humanise them more to show that, yeah, they come from working-class neighbourhoods, yeah, they don’t always have it easy but they are just teenagers. And you can see that in movies like Superbad or Dazed and Confused – they steal the keg and get into trouble, but their petty crimes are really treated as, ‘Oh, they’re just kids.’ And you know there are a lot of horror stories from kids in the Bronx, but there are also a lot of kids who are smart and have fun and adventures. I thought it was important to explore that.
Did you get much criticism for not taking a moral stance on drugs, graffiti or theft?
Yeah, I mean we got a review that said I was ‘promoting robbery’, but I felt like we were just trying to stay true to the culture. I mean those kids steal spraycans, that’s part of the culture, and I’m not trying to have a judgement one way or another. We just wanted to do something that would take an audience on a ride.
But you do explore some of the tension between different communities…
Any major city where there’s a subway, where there’s public transportation that really connects people, there isn’t as much of a sprawl. I mean obviously the city is huge, but you just have everybody sort of thrown together in this mix and all these paths really cross. So to me it made sense that the tough graffiti-writing girl would be friends with the more easy-going graffiti-writing guy who sells weed with Donny, who went to private school with Ginny – all that stuff sort of connects.
The script is rude and awesome. Were you excited about celebrating the creativity of street talk?
Yeah, we’ve actually had this great reaction from audiences all over the world and from all different ages. […] That language can come off at first as seeming angry but it’s not necessarily, it can be very funny and playful and that’s what we were trying to go for.
Gimme The Loot opens in UK cinemas from May 2.