In a bustling wasteland of stolen cars, mechanics and street hustlers, Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), a tough and ambitious street orphan, and his older sister, Isamar (Isamar Gonzales), must rely on each other to survive.... more » Living and working in the Iron Triangle, a sprawling junkyard in Queens, New York, the two find their dreams threatened by the hard truths of life, only to find hope and salvation in one another.DVD Extras:
Audio commentary with director Ramin Bahrani, director of photography Michael Simmonds and actor Alejandro Polanco
Rehearsal footage, Original Theatrical Trailer« less
"Ramin Bahrani succeeds again with another amazing film. Between this and Man Push Cart, I believe he has cornered the genre of film making that feels like a documentary, but is fiction - yet better than what could be recorded as such.
The story is set near the auto slums of the Bronx, modern day. Two young siblings journey together in finding a way to make a living there. The boy, played INCREDIBLY by Alejandro Polanco works at one of the mechanic's shops on the strip, while his sister earns income in a much less glorious way. The film is simply enough, their story over a few days, there is no beginning or end perce. I was so impressed with AP's performance. Even in watching the rehearsal extras on the DVD, he appears to have the makings of a promising actor. This is his only film but I hope he continues.
This is not a film to watch if you are looking for something light with child actors, this is quite the opposite. I have never seen such adult themes and scenes in a film with actors this age. Judging once again by the amount of screens it played and no apparent advertising budget, another great film will get overlooked."
A searing, honest portrait of inner city life
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As with his previous film, "Man Push Cart," director Ramin Bahrani paints a bracingly honest portrait of immigrant life on the economic edges of New York City. In "Chop Shop" we meet two orphaned children, energetic, enterprising Alejandro, and his older sister Isi, who he takes care of more than she takes care of him. At the start of the film, Ale is out on the streets, working any angles he can think of to find food or small change. When an opportunity for work (and a place to stay) arises, he seizes it instantly, and swiftly settles into a position as an assistant in a low-rent auto garage in New York's "Iron Triangle", where dozens of so-called "chop shops" compete for business with an endless stream of beat-up old cars. Alejandro winds up in one of the more honest shops, living in a cramped space above the garage floor, learning the tools of the trade and using his considerable charisma and self-confidence to steer potential customers into the front door.
"Chop Shop" shares several themes with Bahrani's earlier masterpiece, "Man Push Cart," but differs from that film in that no back story is presented to explain why or how these kids would up homeless -- they just are, and they simply deal with the situation as best they can. Like "Man Push Cart," the movie is full of tension and dread, but often defies viewer expectations, which are generally shaped by decades of cliched storytelling. Bahrani's films, however, are anything but cliched -- his cinema verite style creates an earthy, palpable reality, one that draws you in completely and rivets your attention. The dramas he presents are both so humble and so dire that they are utterly compelling, and make this a very fine film.
Great acting from his cast, particularly from Alejandro Polanco, a natural actor with as much charm and inner wit as his character, and Ahmad Razvi, who plays one of the neighboring garage owners. The cast features many actual chop-shop workers, adding an extra layer of reality and authenticity to this remarkable film. Definitely worth checking out! (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film reviews)"
Sean B. Ball | Long Island, New York | 08/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film's protagonist, Alejandro, a preteen orphan, lives and works in a chop shop, an auto parts dealer that specializes in breaking down whole cars into parts; cars that, usually, are stolen.
The shop is owned by Rob, an actual chop shop owner, who generously provides Ale with shelter and money but exploits him for his hard, cheap labor. This is the landscape of Bahrani's film: a vicious, ugly stasis between abject poverty and comfortable living, a place where life is defined by the fruits of a day's labor--a place devoid of hope and dreams. Yet, Ale dares to dream.
Two words sum up this movie for me: sincere and touching.
At the heart of "Chop Shop" is the relationship between Alejandro and his slightly older sister, Isamar. We see them struggle through the trials of life, amid a wasteland section of Queens, New York, with each hardship enforcing a necessity to persevere, the constant struggle becoming their reason to exist. The specifics don't even matter--this is a film about people and life, the harsh background being merely that: a habitat for humans to act and react. There is not much else to provoke the inexplicably orphaned children, as the landscape and all prospects for the youths are bleak. Yet, they possess love and an undying will, a hope, to succeed, a richness paradoxically provided them by poverty. And for this they are willing to suffer themselves. They live for the day, for what will come of their suffering, with hopes of something else a seemingly distant yet powerful reason to live in the now. To make things happen.
So, at the film's end, there is no sadness. No anti-climax. And, also, no sentimental, Hollywood-ending to undermine all that's come before. There is as much hope here as we're allotted in the brilliant closing shot of De Sica's "Bicycle Thief", a movie undoubtedly having its imprint on Chop Shop and filmmaker Ramin Bahran's previous film, 2005's "Man Push Cart". A message that, though, life may not be all right, it will continue. That the film's closing shot is, apparently, mundane, proves that much more is going on in these last seconds; life goes on, yes, and though trying, the struggle against one's circumstance can be enough to validate existence. Ale and Isamar ARE because they struggle. It becomes what informs their habits and routines. It is no sin to live in dream, Bahrani tells us through his film, but a travesty to rely on its potential to transform. A brilliant work of art.
Extremely recommended for fans of his previous film "Man Push Cart". Bahrani is doing something interesting in American cinema: rejecting accepted Hollywood conventions and provoking his audience to think, to reflect on the films--an endangered practice in modern American cinema. See both films."
Youthful Hope and Frustration in New York's "Bleakest Point"
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 07/16/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Writer/director Ramin Bahrani turns his attention to Willets Point, or the "Iron Triangle" area, on the outskirts of Queens in "Chop Shop", a cinema verite-style drama of youthful hope and frustration in this industrial desert. Ale (Alejandro Polanco) is an orphaned but industrious pubescent Latino boy who makes a living helping out at an auto body shop, whose owner Rob (Rob Sowulski) lets him live in the room above the shop. Determined to accumulate some savings, he earns extra cash as a day laborer and peddling odds and ends. When his older sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales) returns to the neighborhood, Ale proudly shows off his little apartment and tries everything he can think of to make her happy and hopeful.
"Chop Shop" was cast with non-professional actors who are certainly convincing in their roles, though I didn't find them natural in every scene. This is a loose narrative, and the miles of concrete, junk, and auto shops a stone's throw from Shea Stadium is a strong character in itself. I don't think that anyone actually lives in Willet's Point, and Ale and Isamar seem to be the only people who do in the movie. "Chop Shop" is an ambiguous sort of coming of age story, a slice of life of two capable young people on their own and without any means of support beyond their own hard work. Though Ale's plight is gut-wrenching at times, the optimism and dreams of this 12-year-old suffuse the film with hopefulness.
The DVD (Koch Lorber 2008): Bonus features include a theatrical trailer (3 min), 8 segments of rehearsals, training, and actors interacting, and a feature commentary by writer/director Ramin Bahrani, cinematographer Michael Simmonds, and actor Alejandro Polanco. The commentary is constant and eclectic. Bahrani and Simmonds talk about locations, characters, cast, technical issues, and emphasize how deliberate things really are in an independent, documentary-style film of this type. And they, along with Polanco, recall their experiences filming. Subtitles are available for the film in English."
A question of taste
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 04/24/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Chop Shop will not be to everyone's taste. Meticulously and beautifully shot, it (as the English teachers say) lacks steady advance. It has a beginning, but not really much of a middle and end. A slice-of-life, apparent-but-not-real documentary, it concerns a 12 year-old boy who works in an auto repair shop in the shadow of Shea Stadium. His sole intention at this point in his life is to support himself and his older sister and keep their family together. This hope is briefly threatened but then resolved, favorably. If you enjoy watching a human relationship under trying circumstances, you will enjoy Chop Shop. If you like a more conventional narrative with standard plot arcs you will find it very slow. Nearly each shot is the result of 30-50 takes and even though the sets are limited and somewhat claustrophobic, the attention to cinematic detail is clear."