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|Index||24 reviews in total|
56 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
welcome to the slums of NYC, 23 October 2007
Author: logube from Italy
my girlfriend, as we walk in the cold London evening in leicester
square, after the movie, says: if they didn't speak English and they
didn't show the stadium, you could have thought this was the slums of a
South American city or some other slum anywhere in the world,not Queens
Ramin Bahrani is , right now, my official hero, because he seems to have devoted his work to show not the OTHER face of American, but the REAL face of America.
Ramin Bahrani's movies are like Ladri di biciclette, or Germania anno zero, or Roma citta' aperta. Chop shop is reality turned into a movie, is more realistic than a documentary, in fact I think Ramin Bahrani's movies are more realistic than documentaries. This is a great movies, but don't expect any car chase or shooting. This movie is about tragic lives on the margin of the wealthiest , richest country in the world.
21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
A poignant character study, 27 July 2008
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), called Ale for short, works at an
auto-body repair shop in what has come to be known as the Iron
Triangle, a deteriorating twenty block stretch of auto junk yards and
sleazy car repair dealers close to Shea Stadium in Queens, New York.
Here customers do not question whether or not parts come from stolen
cars or why they are able to receive such large discounts, they simply
put down their cash and hope that everything is on the up and up.
Sleazy outskirts like these are not highlighted in the tour guides but
Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani puts them on vivid display in
Chop Shop, a powerful Indie film that received much affection last year
at Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto. A follow up to his acclaimed "Man Push
Cart", Bahrani spent one and a half years in the location that F. Scott
Fitzgerald described as in the Great Gatsby as "the valley of the
For all its depiction of bleakness, Chop Shop is not a work of social criticism but, like Hector Babenco's Pixote, a poignant character study in which a young boy's survival is bought at the price of his innocence. Shot on location at Willets Point in Queens, Bahrani makes you feel as if you are there, sweating in a hot and humid New York summer with all of its noise and chaos. The film's focus is on the charming, street-smart 12-year-old Ale who lives on the edge without any adult support or supervision other than his boss (Rob Sowulski), the real-life proprietor of the Iron Triangle garage. Polanco's performance is raw and slightly ragged yet he fully earned the standing ovation he received at the film's premiere at Cannes along with a hug from great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.
Cramped into a tiny room above the garage together with his 16-year-old sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales) who works dispensing food from a lunch wagon, Ale is like one of the interchangeable spare parts he deals with. While he has dreams of owning his own food-service van, in the city that never sleeps, he knows that the only thing that may make the "top of the heap" is another dented fender. In this environment, Ale and Isi use any means necessary to keep their heads above water while their love for each other remains constant and they still laugh and act out the childhood that was never theirs. As Barack Obama says in his book "Dreams From My Father", the change may come later when their eyes stop laughing and they have shut off something inside. In the meantime, Ale supplements his earnings by selling candy bars in the crowded New York subways with his friend Carlos (Carlos Zapata) and pushing bootleg DVDs on the street corners, while Isi does tricks for the truck drivers to save enough money to buy the rusted $4500 van in which they hope to start their own business.
Though Ale is a "good boy", he is not above stealing purses and hubcaps in the Shea Stadium parking lot, events that Bahrani's camera observes without judgment. In Chop Shop, Bahrani has provided a compelling antidote to the underdog success stories churned out by the Hollywood dream factory, and has given us a film of stunning naturalism and respect for its characters, similar in many ways to the great Italian neo-realist films and the recent Iranian works of Kiarostami, Panahi, and others. While the outcome of the characters is far from certain, Bahrani makes sure that we notice a giant billboard at Shea Stadium that reads, "Make dreams happen", leaving us with the hint that, in Rumi's phrase, "the drum of the realization of that promise is beating,"
16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Silent, slow pace but stunning, 18 July 2008
Author: Pazu Kong from Lhasa, Tibet
A friend brought me this movie and at first I was hesitating, the pace
in the movie was so slow that it was admittedly boring at the
beginning. But the life scenes were attractive, it's like observing
It turned out to be simply stunning throughout the film, the way how the director handled the life scenes to reflect the reality was confounding but somehow also overwhelming. It's like understanding the real life of a lively person than watching a movie.
Mr Alejandro Polanco and Miss Isamar Gonzales did their roles so well that it's more like telling us their own stories. Indeed they used their real names in the movie.
13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A pre - teen Latino boy struggles to make a life for him and his sister on the back streets of New York., 5 October 2008
Author: bwanabrad-1 from China
Chop Shop. Written and directed by Ramin Bahrani ( Man Push Cart).
Bahrani specializes in character driven studies in naturalist style
films about the sort of little people that get passed by every day,
without anyone ever really noticing they are there, in New York.
These are people who have been pushed to the very fringe of society. They exist in a sort of grey world, many of them migrants whose legal status in America is appears somewhat doubtful. Where do they come from ? How did they get there ? How do they cope ? Where will they end up ? These are not feel good stories as such, but stories about survival at its most basic, day to day level.
Ale is one such street kid. He has no education and hustles anyway he can, to save money, he is also not beyond turning to petty theft. Mostly he is anxious to be reunited with his older sister. We see him in the early scenes ringing a safe house looking for her, but not having any real success. A young friend, Carlos gets him a job in a chop shop, in the shadows of Shea baseball stadium. Eventually his older sister comes to live on site with him, but he is jealous of the motives of her friends and suspicious of how she makes extra money. He dreams of buying a food van and setting up a vending business with his older sister.
Bahrani shoots all his films on location. There is nothing glossy or glossed over about them. This is life as these people have to live it, in the raw. lt is not pretty although it is never ominous, and the slightly despairing air that hangs over much of the film, is the same one that hangs over these peoples' everyday lives.
The script is also very natural and the characters are given plenty of scope and room to work in. Polanco is outstanding in the lead role, and Gonzalez gives solid support as the older sister.
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A Treasure!, 11 April 2008
Author: Ava_L from Chicago, United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chop Shop is a hidden treasure out in theaters! I cannot begin to
describe how wonderful the performances are in this movie. This film is
for anyone who wants to watch a powerful story and see an example of
what contemporary movies should look and be like.
This film is about a young boy, Alejandro "Ale" who works and lives with his teenage sister, Isamar "Izzie" in a one-room tiny loft in an auto shop. The story takes place in a part of New York City (that I did not even know existed--Willits Points) where there are endless junkyards and body shops. Here, Bahrani tells the story of two forgotten children hoping to support themselves by buying and fixing up a food van.
Ale makes money helping at the auto shop, and Izzie helps at a food van; both, however, earn extra money on the side. Ale sells bootleg movies and stolen car parts; Izzie results to selling herself. Their lives are surrounded by grit and grim, but even though both witness, live and barely survive within their harsh world, their love for each other is never tainted by the filth that surround them. And occasionally they are able to laugh and enjoy moments of their childhood that is being stolen by the reality of struggling to survive and stay together.
The best comparison I have for Chop Shop is that Bahrani's juxtaposition of an innocent love between family members against such a bleak atmosphere is as powerful as Pasolini's Mama Roma combined with the struggles of growing up too fast in an adverse environment just as in Bresson's Mouchette.
Having co-written, directed and edited both this film and his first, Man Push Cart (which won awards all over the world), Bahrani is a total package filmmaker.
I can only hope that his films will not be hidden treasures for long!
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Real, 1 March 2009
Author: (firstname.lastname@example.org) from United States
This almost documentary look at an enterprising boy who lives in the body shop area outside of New York is real all the way. Real lighting. Real sound. Less editing in the whole movie than in 1 minute of most movies. And while there is very little script, there is a story. Shot in primary colors, almost all red, white, blue and yellow, we get a real sense of the life of a boy who is making something from nothing. He has a place to live that he makes his own, has a good job, and is trying to bring his sister into his little universe. The people in the chop shop area also give us a look at this culture which I didn't know about. They mostly seem decent and pay Ale what seems like daily, seeming truly concerned about his well being. The actor (I think) playing Ale says more with one facial expression than one can imagine. This reminded me what a true small movie can accomplish. It shows what kids are capable of, even without much support and love. Definitely recommend.
10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Bahrani doesn't impress me much, 23 December 2008
Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember finding Ramin Bahrani's first film, Man Push Cart, a fairly good debut, but one that lacked any real depth. He hasn't grown much in his sophomore feature, Chop Shop. It also focuses on the urban immigrant poor. The main characters of this film are homeless Hispanic orphans, Ale and his teen sister Izzy. Ale is employed at a junkyard, and he gets his sister a job with his boss's wife. The two plan to save their money to buy a food delivery truck, on which Ale has been told he can get a good deal. The film has one conflict that gives it a little energy, when Ale learns that his sister is working nights as a prostitute. It's at its strongest when it's concentrating on Ale's anger and confusion. He begins to act out by committing crimes, which get progressively more serious. The film doesn't have a lot going on, but with this plot point giving the film a mild psychological complexity, it's a decent watch. Unfortunately, the film craps out at the end with a lame, forced plot twist that so ridiculously echoes the one at the end of Man Push Cart that Bahrani should be embarrassed to have went with it. And that final shot is pseudo-poetic trash. Well, it impresses Roger Ebert, anyway.
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Chop Shop: Success is in the eye of the beholder, 26 March 2010
Author: wacoastguy from United States
For the very reason that I love movies such as "Central do Brasil" ("Central Station", 1998), I really love "Chop Shop". There is no sugar-coating or any attempt to make these people's lives over to something more palatable or pretty. What you see is what you get, and that is often gritty and at times heartbreaking. But that is exactly what makes a movie such as "Chop Shop" so wonderful, alongside the fact that the storyline unfolds so elegantly and subtly. For a young brother and sister, who are about as close to homelessness as one would ever want to get, working (and living) at an auto body repair shop in Queens, New York is as good as it gets. Is this a good or bad thing? That is the question this movie essentially poses to the viewer. This movie is really a fantastic slice-of-life piece that at times feels like a documentary instead of a drama, and that is a great thing, because it looks and feels so real. In the midst of so, so many current movies based on essentially surreal and often implausible plots, stumbling upon "Chop Shop" is like finding a little gem.
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant Neo-Realism, 14 January 2010
Author: Kevin from United States
Chop Shop, the second feature from Ramin Bahrani, is a rare breed. It
is an American film that tells a story not usually found in American
cinema, the story of the of a minority living in poverty. It is a work
of simple beauty. Shot on location in Queens, New York in the shadows
of Shea Stadium, Chop Shop is neo-realism to the core. Featuring a cast
of non-actors, it has more in common with Vittorio De Sica's classic
Bicycle Thieves than anything made in the United States. There is no
score or soundtrack, all the music and sounds are diagetic. Watching it
feels like watching a great foreign film, it takes us to another world
because it is so uncommon to see. However this other world is not
post-World War II Rome or Istanbul or New Delhi, it is contemporary New
Bahrani tells the story of Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), better known as Ale. He is a 12-year-old Latin-American kid with no parents or family unit to watch after him. He lives in a tiny room upstairs in the auto shop that he also works at. He shares the same bed with his teenage sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales). Neither of them have made it passed second grade. Ale, though young, is tough and mature. He acts as the head of the small family. He hooks his sister up with a job, and he himself does anything he can to make a buck when not working at the chop shop. He sells bootleg DVDs on the streets and candy in subways. He searches for scrap auto parts and sells them to the many auto shops lining the street where he lives.
Alejandro is heartbroken when he learns his sister is working nights as a prostitute. He himself becomes progressively disinterested in abiding by the law. He begins to steal, first car parts and later wallets. Like Antonio, the desperate protagonist in Bicycle Thieves, we cannot blame Ale for becoming a thief. It is merely survival. Ale and Isamar save up in hopes of buying a food vending van for $4,500. They see the van as their way out, and there is much optimism. However, as is usually the case in neo-realism, we know this will only lead to disappointment.
Polanco's riveting performance is what gives legitimacy to Chop Shop's realism. Here is a 12-year-old character that needs to be believably independent and vulnerably naive. Whether he is directing cars to the shop, selling movies and Snickers bars or playing with his sister in their scanty room, it is authentic.
Chop Shop is a sobering reminder that not all American children grow up in a land of opportunity. Ale's lifestyle is what many in middle-class white America consider 'third world'. They act cognizant the poverty and deprivation in foreign lands while sipping their coffee and reading the New York Times on Sunday morning, but make themselves blind to it on their own streets. Once you watch Chop Shop, you will think differently of the kids peddling candy on the subway.
more reviews at www.mediasickness.com
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
it could be called neo-realism, or it could just be called 'real', 3 October 2009
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
Ramin Bahrani sets up a scene early on in Chop Shop that immediately
had me identifying with where the character of Ale (Alejandro Polanco)
and his friend were coming from. The two of them get on a subway, and
as soon as the doors close they ask if they could have everyone's
attention for a moment, and that they are selling candy bars or M&M's
or something, and then they proceed to sell some bars. If you (as I)
have ever been on a subway in New York city, at any time, this is the
kind of situation that happens so often you almost don't notice it.
Often the people on a subway will see kids like these or minorities
selling something or announcing and talking about something on a subway
and not pay them any mind. Bahrani's focus isn't necessarily just on
kids who hock things for sale on subway rides, but on survival and the
state of being one is in when in the lower class in America. It is,
subsequently in his hands, thoughtful and heartbreaking, usually at
To compare it to Pixote or the Bicycle Thief isn't too far of a leap (actually in the latter at least the father and son have each other), though Bahrani is specific in his intentions in his documentary style. We care about this character Ali, no older than eleven and working in a car shop cleaning some cars and helping take apart others, and his sister who comes from out of town to stay with him. But it's not simply because we're force-fed any clichés, aside from, you know, a brother and sister (more-so the brother) trying to take care of one another. Bahrani makes the story accessible through the simple aspiration Ali has, the kind of goal that is possible attainable in his situation: saving up enough to buy a used food truck that Ali and Isamar can operate themselves.
It's all Ali is working for, but what Bahrani shows us in brutal detail is this work, what Ali has to do to make it happen even if its distasteful things like ripping hubcaps off of tires from cars in Shea Stadium or, at one point, stealing a purse in a desperate moment. This makes it all the more serious an issue when Ale sees what his sister does for money on the side at night, doing sexual favors for men in an abandoned truck on the side of the road. He doesn't mention it and pushes it aside, but its always something that adds to the tension, something Ale wants to protect his sister from. It adds to the tragedy when Ale finds out the real cost of what it will take to make the food truck into a profit-maker, a cost that just further adds to the anguish that he just internalizes.
One could look immediately at the fact that Ale is an orphan in such a neighborhood as the one in the area of Queens the film was shot in- naturally, as with a work of neo-neo realism (lets just call it realism), featuring practically all non-professional actors in the parts of the mechanics and workers and people on the streets- but Bahrani is focused more-so on the here and the now, and that is what makes Chop Shop so immediate and heartfelt. Not a trace of melodrama is in the film, barely even music accompaniment aside from the live Latino music coming from the cars and radios. Sometimes Bahrani will focus on a very subtle moment that makes it pronounced in further scenes, like the way Ale is awake but acts like he's asleep the first night after he witnesses Isamar's late-night tryst, and we see as she slinks into bed she probably knows he's awake but neither can say a word. Or, in a lot of other scenes, poetic touches that seem seamless, like when the man shows Ale how feeding the pigeons work.
It's rough and gritty, as you can expect, and it doesn't give much hope for its main characters despite the few moments of happiness sprinkled about. It's also a superbly shot hand-held film, where the technique, as with a lot of movies made in its urban-set tone and approach, informs and compliment the subjects on screen and what they're doing, but it also is never recklessly shot or too flashy. The filmmaker has a superb 'real-life' cast (Ale was plucked from a NYC public school without any experience) and knows how to not waste a shot, while at the same time achieve a brutal artistry with just showing what he shows. It's not City of God or Pixote; it's its own little masterpiece on a character or characters we usually would just not give a second look to (or a first one barely) on our way in a city such as New York. If you're not moved by Ale and his daily struggles, I don't know what to do for you.
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