Netflix UK film review: Tramps
Josh Slater-Williams | On 27, Apr 2017
Director: Adam Leon
Cast: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten, Michael Vondel, Mike Birbiglia
Watch Tramps online in the UK: Netflix UK
Back in 2012, American director Adam Leon made his feature debut with Gimme the Loot, which concerned two graffiti artists looking to tag an iconic landmark as revenge against a rival gang, but needing to raise $500 prior to pulling off their grand scheme. A shaggy two-hander caper that was short and sweet, Gimme the Loot was a film that thrived on the chemistry of its two young leads and an evocation of a side of New York City rarely given much attention in contemporary cinema. It recalled much of the spirit of early Richard Linklater and lighter Jean-Luc Godard fare, as well as the humanist, music-heavy films of the late Jonathan Demme, the latter of whom lent the US release of Gimme the Loot a “Jonathan Demme Presents” credit to help it out.
A few years on, Leon is back with Tramps, under the Netflix Originals banner, which concerns a very different pair of young protagonists, but is a film of a similar mould – a romp through upstate and city-based New York that’s thin on narrative, but high on energy. The caper plot this time around involves a briefcase swap deal that goes wrong, the full specifics of which are so vague as to be inconsequential; Tramps is more about the mischief of the matter than the danger. One’s mileage may vary as to how important that lack of, uh, importance is, but details such as what’s actually in the briefcase, or where it’s from, are besides the point for the tone Leon (who co-wrote the film) is going for.
Alongside the reference points with the director’s last film, Tramps also seems inspired by the romantic screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, with It Happened One Night coming across as a key influence during a few scenes of an upstate detour. While lacking the firecracker dialogue of the best of that genre, Tramps has much of their sweetness lying behind its barbs, and stands apart from contemporary burgeoning romances with its almost stubborn old-fashioned stylings – don’t come into this with expectations of more than a kiss in the way of consummation.
Romantic comedies live and die by the chemistry of their leads, and Leon has another ace pairing in the form of Grace Van Patten (in her second feature film role) and Callum Turner (rising Brit star, playing Polish-American here). She’s level-headed and world-weary; he’s a good-hearted, awkward motormouth who’s barely left the city in his life. Their performances are unflashy (Van Patten, in particular, thrives on conveying a lot with just a softening of her eyes), but their charisma is off the charts. You want them to succeed and you want to spend time with them.
Late in the film, a supporting character comments on the unnecessary quality of over-complicated schemes, which feels like meta-commentary about the film itself. There may not seem to be a lot going on in Tramps, but a little goes a long way.
Tramps is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.