Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Chop Shop" (2007) - Movie Review

Ale (Alejandro Polanco) in “Chop Shop” reminded of the small kids working in an old torn up automobile shop back in my native. They all had an universal trait of wittiness, shrewd and would sell you the crappiest product as the best in no time. They work hard and some how learn the attitude to cherish and enjoy to find the solace in the little money they get. Some become so loyal to their master that they soon take over the shop or may be move out to open their own and compete better. The strangest though is that “Chop Shop” happens in the near by neighbourhood of New York. If they have not showed the high buildings in the initial scenes and roaring “Mets” cheer from Shea Stadium hiding this place, it could have been mistaken for another country with people speaking accented English.

Ramin Bahrani the director of this film takes through the life of this young boy growing up as his surrounding demands to. He works his way out and finds a job as the errand boy in an automobile shop. Low labour and a night guard to live there puts him out there. He sneaks in like million times to get his things done. He jumps in to the office of his boss for making calls for locating his sister (Isamar Gonzales). He steals tire plates from the stadiums, sells pirated DVDs, markets as the kid trying to go school and ride on the wave of sympathy in subways and almost does everything possible to get the bits and pieces of dollars. He has been saving up for quite a while now and hopes to get a van with his sister to open up a fast food shop of their own.

He is industrious and Bahrani builds up a different sense of appeal in this tough life. As Ale we are elated on the day he goes through. Running around and understanding the possibilities and environment he has been put in, he rises up for the challenge. In such an young age he is pushed to accept the reality of what he is in and begins to swim in it as fast and as effective he possibly could. In that his only closeness in fun and love is his sister who in her teens has been hanging out with friends Ale does not like. He ridicules her friend’s aspiration of going to Florida and have a better life. He knows he can keep his sister at her happiest and make a living together. In between them is his buddy Carlos (Carlos Zapata) whose Uncle owns the torn up fast food van. That is his destiny.

We see the place of another world lying by the sides of riches and luxurious. It is the world hardly any one is aware of. It is the market to get the fixes done reasonably cheap but also need to street talk to get that part of “reasonable”. Ale has the job of convincing the passing cars to lure them into the shop he is working. He competes with adults who he steps in front to say that this car is his business. I could not stop wondering how familiar Ale is for me. In the native where these shops are covered with asbestos to increase the scorching heat to another level are kids like Ale. If there are two kids working in some cases, one definitely will be the calmest and obedient than the other. The other though would be equally astute but mouths off. Both helps in this business because work is everything. They are destined to be the next in line automobile shop owners.

There are no plots other than the quest for this van. From the looks of it, no one needs to inform us of the tragedy it heads to but not the usual. Because Bahrani does not put up sadness like films which haunts in the destitute generally fails to. While Ale is some one knowing the street smart skills, he still gets his hands burnt. After all he is still a kid. He is angry and disappointed with his sister when he finds out her reason for late night stay but does not know how to talk to her about it. Or may be he does not want her to stop as the money is good. He is conflicted and look at me how I evaluate him as an adult.

“Chop Shop” is a unperturbed view of this kid’s life no one knows near the most liveliest city. It focuses how different a few miles away to deviate from a social atmosphere sparsely aware of. In that place we find the breathing busy bee Ale and how he is building the life around it without spending time on the unfairness he has been put in. But again he is a kid learning and seeing around to accept the way of existence. He practices it to stay in the game. He grows up fast to talk eye to eye with a seasoned work fellow. Bahrani while informs us of this unknown universe does not exploit it for melodrama or sympathy. He simply takes those characters and makes us like them, care them and brings a calm smile when they put the darkness behind to proceed towards the dawn of another day.

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