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Chop Shop (2007)

 -  Drama  -  27 February 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,962 users   Metascore: 83/100
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Alejandro, a resourceful street orphan on the verge of adolescence, lives and works in an auto-body repair shop in a sprawling junkyard on the outskirts of Queens, New York. In this chaotic world of adults, Alejandro struggles to make a better life for himself and his sixteen-year-old sister.


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Title: Chop Shop (2007)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alejandro Polanco ...
Isamar Gonzales ...
Rob Sowulski ...
Carlos Zapata ...
Anthony Felton ...
Carlos's Uncle
Evelisse 'Lilah' Ortiz ...
Michael 'Gringo' Nieto ...
Construction Foreman
Carlos the Pigeon Worker
The 'John'
Bedford T. Bentley ...
Broken Mirror Customer (as Nick Bentley)
Edwin Rojas ...
Rob's Worker
Roy Francisco Green ...
Rob's Worker
Billy Klatzis ...
Rob's Worker


Alejandro, a resourceful street orphan on the verge of adolescence, lives and works in an auto-body repair shop in a sprawling junkyard on the outskirts of Queens, New York. In this chaotic world of adults, Alejandro struggles to make a better life for himself and his sixteen-year-old sister.

Add Full Plot | Plot Synopsis




Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 February 2008 (USA)  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$8,475 (USA) (29 February 2008)


$123,731 (USA) (11 July 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Kooba Buena
Performed by Coati Mundi (as Coati Mundi Hernandez)
Written by Coati Mundi (as Coati Mundi Hernandez)
Courtesy of Mundi Music Productions
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User Reviews

A Realistic look into Life of an orphan in New York
8 November 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I love gritty drama films. Especially those that include a coming of age story. This poignant film by director Ramin Bahrani and writer Bahareh Azimi showcases the struggle of a Latino street orphan to make life better for himself and his sister. Ale, played wonderfully by Alejandro Polanco in his first staring role, finds a job working for a local mechanic doing odd jobs. He finds out that his sister is doing some things on the side for money that aren't, well, "respectable". His portrayal was very realistic and at times it seemed like I was watching a documentary.

There isn't much of a plot here, but you can't help but to appreciate the performances. The two leads, Polanco and Isamar Gonzales (Ale's Sister) were found at a local school with no prior acting experience or study. Finding that out post viewing made me appreciate their "chops" even more so. Also, most of the extra's were just people milling around their normal lives in Queens. This is why this type of film is labeled as "neo-realism" and why it was such a successful production.

The setting of the film by itself is a character of the movie. Shot in Willets Point, Queens in New York, this IS the real deal. Bahrani mentions in an interview with Alt Film Guide that "...I am making films about how the majority of people in this world live, and we must also accept that this majority is utterly ignored by Hollywood and Independent film..." So true he is. The gritty real background of Chop Shop pulls the audience even more into the performances of the actors. Allowing the director to " without directing." as he mentions in the same interview.

Being that there is not much of a plot in this movie, one has to ask why? Was there a reason the writers chose to concentrate on a "section" of time in this boys life? Yes, it was to show that in real life things happen, secrets are revealed and life goes on. I appreciated the fact that this was just a snippet of what Ale's existence is really like. We don't know if he gets out of the slums or if his sister succeeds in a more productive endeavor. What we do know is that life is hard, and sometimes you have to do what you have to do to survive. The situations presented in this film were shown without a filter so to speak. Ramin Bahrani did a wonderful job giving us a glimpse into the street life so many children are part of today.

Cinematographer Michael Simmons, who also worked on "Man Push Cart" the directors first film, was outstanding. He moved the camera a lot, but it was to the benefit of the viewer in my opinion. We weren't concentrated on one central character, we were distracted by the goings on around the dialog on screen, much like it would be in real life. The production team filmed using the High Definition Sony F900 then blew up the final product to 35mm. It was a good decision and gave the film that gritty, documentary feel the director was going for.

I really enjoyed this little slice of life from Queens. It was something I haven't really seen before so that was refreshing. I've bumped this up to a 4/5 due to the striking performances of the actors. Initially I would have given a 3/5 due to the fact that with all of the films positive points, it was still a little boring. If you are looking for a stylized extravagant production with a happy ending, you may want to look elsewhere. For those looking for an experience unlike many out there, this one is for you.

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