Take Out (2004) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
7 Reviews
Sort by:
moving neo-realist slice of life
littlemes27 April 2004
Directors Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou outdo themselves with their tale which is about much more than the sum of its parts. Excellent performances from professionals and non-professionals highlight this story of one young immigrant's struggle to survive in a country that doesn't care what state he is in, they just want their deliveries on time. Please seek this out and see what can be done with no money and a lot of talent. This story could be done 'Hollywood' style, with its crucial deadlines and world pressing in on Ming Ding(the lead), but it doesn't need to rely on overmanipulative scores, frenetic editing or artificial suspense..the way it's laid out will keep you on edge as it is.
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
KissEnglishPasto2 August 2016
.........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA....and ORLANDO, FL

....And this ONE really has Cinema Verite written ALL over it! You never know exactly what to expect next. But, for the most part, nothing DOES ever really happen...and that, in the case of TAKE OUT, is a GOOD thing, believe me. Perhaps a bit cryptic and difficult to decipher at times, but I think that's because, culturally speaking, many Chinese Nationals seem to be a bit difficult to read!

Surprisingly, in the Special Features "Making-of" short, we learn that most of the cast are simply PORTRAYING characters from the Mainland. Of course, SOME of them really are, but most are Korean-American, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Chinese-American and Singaporean, ALL of whom speak perfect Mandarin. Wow! Sure fooled me!

A more accurate title might have been: "Chinese TAKE OUT Delivery Boy: A Day In The LIFE...or E-C Comah, E-C Goah!" If this zero budget film hadn't been executed with such overwhelmingly brutal and convincing precision, it most certainly would've been rated .75 to 1 full * less! From early on, my empathy with those on-screen was total and unwavering! They had me at "Sut- Tzun Tee-En-Hwah!"

At one point I actually said to myself, "Hey, they just followed this delivery boy around all day with a camera, that's why ALL this seems so REAL, because it IS REAL!" I consider myself a peace-loving person, but my identification with the characters in the film became so strong, that during one scene of injustice, I yearned for a gun to shoot the bad guys myself!

TAKE OUT does shine a spotlight on some important realities. It shows us how new arrivals are forced into a life of virtual slavery by bottom-feeders who trap them into a never-ending cycle of loans with astronomical interest- rates. Hey, you think YOU have problems!? Closing note: Considering the 3K budget, the production values aren't all that bad. Talk about getting a LOT of BANG for your BUCK! Your best bet...Let TAKE OUT serve you up a slice of Chinese-immigrant life!


Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Struggling to survive under the radar
Chris Knipp14 June 2008
This film has no frills, but it doesn't need any. It's redolent of the authentic gritty milieu of a Chinese illegal who's got to get together $800 before the night's over to pay loan sharks by borrowing and delivering for a Chinese take out shop perched on the cusp between Harlem's projects and gentrified buildings all on a June day of pouring down rain. There's no time to breathe. The people are real. The external customers who come into the shop (some of them jokesters) are aspiring actors, but the apartment dwellers are opening their own doors. The lady taking the orders who they call Big Sister (Lee Wang-Thye) is the actual employee of the working restaurant that's in function in the location implied as the film is being shot. The rain is real. The anxiety feels real. What more do you need? Ming Ding (Charles Jang) is a pimply young father with a child he's never seen. He gets waked up early in the dormitory he sleeps in to get threatened and smashed with a hammer. The two men working for the loan shark take $800 he has saved and demand another $800 at the end of the day.

At work, Ming Ding is shyly noncommittal but his co-delivery guy Young (Jeng-Hua Yu), who was where he was four years earlier, worms out of him that he's in debt and lets Ming Ding take both their deliveries that day to raise his take. The essence of this film is that given the threatening situation, the viewer identifies all the more with the protagonist precisely because of his blankness and ineloquence. It is an aspect of his helplessness. And when Ming Ding makes his many deliveries he does not speak, even to smile and say "Thank you very much" as Young comically teaches him to do so he might get a better tip. He speaks no English, and this is a further dimension of his helplessness. The viewer too is helpless. We can't really see the money being exchanged clearly enough at the deliveries to know when Ming Ding is getting a tip and when he isn't. What we know is that the patrons are rarely pleasant and always hasty. For them, above all Ming Ding is a non-person.

Some who've commented on this feisty little film insist the plot "hook" is a formality and the aim is to depict the illegal-immigrant life or the low-level Chinese restaurant of New York City. That ignores that the detail is monotonous and repetitious; its effectiveness comes from suspense over whether Ming Ding will put together enough money. The uncertainty is the most essential aspect of the atmosphere and the most realistic.

In fact contemporary verismo or not, this is very much like the turn-of-the-century short stories of O.Henry, which often refer to the lives of the dirt-poor new immigrants of New York of an earlier era. Like many O. Henry characters, Ming Ding lives on the edge of life and death, poverty and exhaustion, and the story hinges on a last minute twist, a couple of them; the luck of the draw, a stupid mistake, a sudden access of kindness from an unexpected quarter. Of such things lives on the edge are made. Yes, we see the first twist coming, and the second one too is well set up, but that's how life-or-death short stories have to work. In this kind of story, whether by O. Henry or Baker and Tsou, the almost too tight construction of the narrative and the desperate exigencies of the protagonist's situations are friends to each other, and Baker and Tsou, who met at the New School, have made a little marvel of economy. Their scenario was dictated by the newcomers they encountered and Tsou, a Chinese speaker, spoke to everybody and even where the undocumented ones were concerned about anonymity, they weren't tight-lipped like Ming Ding. Tsou would like this film to be seen in China to show people the life of immigrants in America is much harder than they may think.

Seen at Quad Cinema June 13, 2008, where Baker and Tsou were present for a Q&A afterward. They are excited that five years after making the film, they are getting the audience contact of theatrical distribution.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A inside look of one day of a life of an illegal immigrant in US.
ironhorse_iv26 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This foreign language movie delivers literally. Shih-Ching Tsou and Sean Bakers delivers a movie of a day-in-the-life of an unseen world of a illegal Chinese immigrant working as a deliveryman for a Chinese take-out shop in New York City. Film with limited to no budget, the film does so well what big blockbusters couldn't do, is beam light into living as a illegal in this country. While film in the US, the movie has mostly Mandarin speakers actors and non-actors with some English being spoken as well. Film in upper-Manhattan, the story starts out with Ming Ding (Charles Jang), waking up to find out that he's behind with payments on his huge debt to the smugglers who brought him to the United States. The collectors have given him until the end of the day to deliver the money that is due or else. After borrowing most of the money from friends and relatives, Ming realizes that the remainder must come from the day's delivery tips. In order to do so, he must make more than double his average daily income. Film in a 'run from the gun, race against time' social realist style action, the film touches on themes such as free will vs determinism, by having the camera follows Ming travels on his cheap bicycle on his deliveries throughout the upper Manhattan neighborhood where social and economic extremes exist side by side. Not only is the man working harder than he ever work better, but has to deal with the abuse from both weather, and from people. The rain during the deliveries scenes, was truly real during filming and it was one of the worst rain-fall in New York City's history and Ming was in it truly delivering food for a film. We find out that the reason why he's working so hard, is that Ming came to the United States with the goal of creating a better future for his wife and child back in China. It's ever so much tragedy when we watch the movie, cause you will start to feel for the character. While, the film is not all gloomy. A fellow delivery man and Ming's closest friend at the take-out helps him out by allowing him to take his side of the work. (Jeng-Hua Yu) Young is a happy-go-lucky slacker who provides comic relief to the mundane work day. He is the only one at the take-out who is aware of Ming's dilemma. Big Sister (Wany-Thye Lee) is a spunky woman with street smarts who juggles the orders and operations of the take-out. Surprising this woman is not a actress at all, she truly does work in the Chinese place. Last is Wei (Justin Wan), a cook at the take-out who has been in the country longer than most of the others. Wei's sense of seniority frequently lands him in minor disagreements of opinion and power with the other workers, mostly about Ming. The film was film during an actual take-out restaurant operating hours and it gives the realism of the film. It's was also note that most of the customers in the film, were not actors, and it was truly their real life doorsteps. They were pay 5 bucks for their time and given food. It was interesting how each people treated Ming from the impatient, tippers, non-tippers, distracted, the racist, or badgering him when the order get wrong. Look for a manipulative climactic twist toward the end. The film does have a repetitive, slow-paced raw and bleak nature to it. It's a very important film to watch. The next time you ask for food delivery to your house, make sure you tip them.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An interesting early feature by Sean Baker
runamokprods2 February 2017
Sean Baker has made some really stunning micro budget films in recent years. Both his much lauded "Tangerine" and less known but equally excellent "Starlet" were wonderful comedy- dramas, artfully telling takes of those normally overlooked by mainstream cinema.

"Take Out" is not quite as strong as those later works, but is still well worth seeing.

This verite style study of a Chinese food deliveryman's desperate rush to earn $800 to pay off the loan sharks that helped pay his way to the US has a nifty sense of almost documentary realism. The acting is very real and understated (by a mixed cast of actors and non-pros), and the tension level is high.

I didn't have quite as strong a positive reaction as most of the critics for a few reasons. First, while avoiding movie clichés for the most part, a couple of key 'twists' are broadcast a mile off, dampening their impact. Also, by making his lead character such a cipher (he not only doesn't speak English, but seems inward and withdrawn even among his fellow Chinese), that it's hard to build up a connection with him as a character. Yes, we can pity his plight, but I wanted to understand what was going on in his head. Also, the shaky-cam shooting style occasionally called more attention to itself then I think it was intended to.

It reminded me a bit in tone of Ramin Bahrani's terrific "Man Push Cart", but for me that early work had a little more poetry and richness.

None-the-less, an intelligent, well-meaning micro budget film (it looks like it was shot on regular definition video), and - given my fondness for Baker's more recent films - I'll certainly go back for another look.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good stuff.
tempytemp@aol.com16 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this in New York when it opened in June. My girlfriend dragged me. I wanted to see Wanted instead. But it was all good because the movie is well done and very interesting. The acting seems real and it made me really think about that guy's life. Who knew? The scene in the elevator is mad real and had me on the edge of my seat. For reals. Liufe is tough sometimes in the big city but this guy's life is straight up whack attack in my knapsack. i knew a delivery man for domino's and he said he had it rough but - yo - he was straight up living large compared to this dude in this movie. it had me when he had to race against time to raise the money. i love race against time in a movie. no lie this movie's the shiznits on my back zits. oh yeah, also - i scored major points with my girl - so for that alone i give this thing the full on ten stars. I will think twice now when i tip the delivery man. word.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great film about the day in the life of a Chinese food delivery boy...
MichaelReviews2 January 2011
The movie is shot so realistically I thought I was watching a documentary. The movie follows a day in the life of a Chinese food delivery boy, and all the difficulties that this line of work entails. The twist here is that this delivery boy is an illegal immigrant and has a significant debt to repay. I was surprised to see how difficult this line of work really is, and never really thought about the stories of the people who are doing this work. I wonder how many others delivery boys are in the same situation as the character in this film. There are times of heartfelt camaraderie between the workers of the Chinese restaurant, each willing to help the other out in times of greatest need. I certainly will be more generous with my tipping after having seen this film.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews