“Everybody got dirt. Everybody got an agenda.” Hisonni Johnson’s Take Out Girl takes place in the crime-ridden territory referred to as the “Low Bottoms” in south-central Los Angeles. When strolling through these parlous streets, expect there to be skulking gangsters, flustered officers, and calculated drug deals. For so long, stories have been told about an impecunious character who would go to extreme lengths to get themselves out of a financial bind, or simply because they’ve become blinded or coerced by the life of crime. In Breaking Bad, Walter White started his drug career to pay the medical bills and leave his family money. Before any of these characters know it, they are eternally mired in a blood-laced lifestyle — or at least until they die from a bullet. For 20-year-old Asian girl Tera Wong (Hedy Wong, who also co-wrote the script), she works as a delivery employee at Sai Kung Restaurant, a place owned and operated by her family. Soon enough, her family establishment soon becomes entangled in illegal activities.
“… there’s a lingering sense of doom that stays with Tera throughout her unlawful journey.”
An unwavering shot follows Tera from behind as she strolls the hallway of a school. Her face is deliberately concealed, her black baseball cap (with the words “Never Compromise” sewn on the back) is plainly underscored, and pesky students are stopping her in her tracks to procure test answers in exchange for cash. This briskly clever introduction of Tera showcases her duplicity, frustration, street-smarts, and anger with modest potency.
If the shameless cheating wasn’t a clear enough inkling, school isn’t on Tera’s priority list. Instead of focusing on education, Tera spends the majority of her time as a delivery employee at her family’s struggling restaurant, alongside Crystal Wong (Mier Chasin), her brother, Saren Wong (a convincing Lorin Alond Ly, whose capricious temperament implies unalterable recklessness), and her very ill mother, Wavy Wong (a soft-spoken Lynna Yee). Like every other family business, it can be difficult to match up with the big guys. But Tera’s mother also suffers from serious back problems that’ll only get worse if she continues to operate the restaurant without extra assistance. Something has to be done to overcome staggering debt; that’s where the illicit practices come in.