Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chop Shop

Directed by Ramin Bahrani

This is a powerful film about a boy named Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), who lives in an auto body shop with his older sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales) in the 'Iron Triangle' area of Queens. Ale doesn't go to school, but instead spends his days working in the shop, and hustling chocolate bars and DVDs on the subway and the streets. Isamar works in a food truck, and occassionally does some 'hustling' of her own. Their parents are not on the scene, and are never discussed. The kids' dream is to buy a food truck of their own, but this dream doesn't seem to be realizable.

This entire movie is carried by Polanco, who is an incredible actor. He shows an vast range of emotion, as he walks the streets a tough, unflappable young man, but can also let down his guard with his sister and be the little kid that he is. As the movie progresses, his face shows the anger and stress that his character is feeling. The rest of the cast are non-actors, and many of the scenes have an improvisational feel, while staying true to reality.

The film is a series of long takes, beautifully orchestrated around the post-urban wasteland of junkyards and car shops. The streets are awash in mud and detritus, and we are given only an occassional glance at the Manhattan skyline. Bahrani is an amazing director, and wise in the way he lets his actors make the story their own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you dug 'Chop Shop,' be sure to check out Ramin Bahrani's new film 'Goodbye Solo.' It opens in theaters on March 27th. You can check out the trailer and theater listings at