(No longer in theaters)
Jeb Brody, Lisa Muskat, Marc Turtletaub
Koch Lorber Films
Feb 27, 2008
Ramin Bahrani’s Chop Shop is a low-budget vérité triumph, set in Queens beyond the sight of baseball fans in nearby Shea Stadium. Bahrani’s concentration is close to supernatural as he tracks the young, prepubescent Ale (Alejandro Polanco) from job to soul-numbing job, some legal, some extralegal, to the point where you’re forced to suspend altogether your moral judgments and watch with a mixture of pain and awe. Working to survive and somehow save a few thousand dollars to buy a dilapidated truck from which the 16-year-old sister (Isamar Gonzales) who shares his little bed could sell food, Ale lives in a world where fathers (including the One Upstairs) are nowhere in evidence. Yet he moves from hope to hope. The only thing that rocks his world is seeing his sister turn tricks in the front seat of a car.
Bahrani directed a film called Man Push Cart (2005) about the life of an immigrant selling hot dogs. It was beautifully photographed and attuned—as in the work of Belgium’s Dardenne brothers—to one-thing- after-another workplace rituals. But it had a bittersweet fairy-tale scenario that was too movie-ish. Chop Shop isn’t so beautiful or artfully sculpted, and you can’t shake it off as just a movie. You want to head out on the 7 train and find this little boy—or someone like him.