Tramps June 2, 2018
Grace Van Patten
1 Hr., 22 Mins.
n Tramps (2016), the writer-director Adam Leon’s second feature film, we are caught in the middle of a madcap caper involving the switching off of a cash-stuffed briefcase. The film stars the British actor Callum Turner as a Polish-American New Yorker named Danny, who has been persuaded to take part in a criminal scheme via the pleas of his recently jailed, no-good brother, Darren (Michal Vondel). As the film opens, Darren, using the meager landline the slammer provides, asks that Danny pick up a briefcase at a subway stop and then make an exchange with a couple shady figures later on. Payment for his work will come soon enough. No need to ask questions.
Danny’s a nice guy who’d prefer to do the right thing and pass up the offer, but the promise of money is too tempting and the idea of displeasing his brother brings him much worry. So he agrees to participate, and before long is he his very own version of a Hitchcock protagonist in over his head. He is aided by Elle (Grace Van Patten, luminous), a young woman recruited by a small-time hustler (Mike Birbiglia) who hopes the payout will enable her to start a new life.
But what once seemed like a straightforward plan is jumbled when Danny grabs the wrong bag and loses his money. Desperate, he and Elle, attentive toward an address found in the stranger’s purse, hop on the Metro North, and attempt to get the bag situation sorted out before things get too out of control.
Over the course of this odyssey, both Danny and Elle, who tried their hardest to maintain blank-faced professionalism when the plot wasn’t on the downturn, are given the chance to get to know each other better — and mutual attraction proliferates. Danny gently flirts; Elle talks at length about her past (she was most recently a stripper based in Pittsburgh, and intends to use the money from this briefcase job as a way to help her hit restart).
As the chemistry burgeons, the more compelling this pair becomes — though Leon sometimes pays more attention to the storyline and thus has difficulties making a movie as interesting as his leads are. But in lieu of its few setbacks, Tramps is an easy, impossible-to-dislike romantic comedy thriller that emulates the breeze of the Barack and Michelle-centric Southside with You (2016) and the pep of the foremost caper film, Charade (1963).
Make no mistake, though: Tramps’s seemingly effortless charm is an effect of great effort. In an interview with the New York Times last April, Leon said he wanted the follow-up to his widely beloved debut, Gimme the Loot (2013), to build upon and modernize the winning formulas of films like It Happened One Night (1934), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), and Midnight Run (1988) — essentially take a more purposeful approach to his filmmaking process.
A filmmaker less gifted than Leon might come up with a film less distinctive, too evidently reliant of the highs of films past. But with Tramps, Leon does exactly what he set out to do: Make an amiable romantic caper that we’re tempted to return to, using the above mentioned films as jumping-off points rather than items to recreate and renew. With young stars as winsome as Van Patten and Turner acting as your Colbert and Gable, you’re basically set. B+