tcc: chop shop

November 29, 2008

few films are able to capture a place, a moment, or an event, as well as this one.  it throws the viewer into the world of queens area chop shops, specifically the few located on one lone stretch of pavement covered with garages just a few blocks from shea stadium.  we are immediately engulfed in the world that forces our main character, ale, to grow up years beyond his actual age.

forced to earn a living for himself, ale sells candy bars on the subway, bootleg dvds to anyone who will listen, cellphones, tires, metal, found or stolen car parts, and he works and lives in a chop shop where he is sort of being apprenticed.  his goals for the more affluent do not seem so out of reach.  he wants to buy an old food service truck for him and his sister (who is now living with him, and hustling on the streets) to own and operate.  but to ale, it’s the world.  it’s a glimpse of control in a world where he has very little.

director ramin bahrani builds up the stakes perfectly.  ale’s sister starts putting in more and more money for the purchase of the truck, and ale becomes more and more aware of where she is getting the cash and forces him to mature even further.  which in turn pushes him deeper into the world of petty crime.  shea stadium is constantly sitting on the horizon, a constant reminder of the goals that ale will never achieve.  the film traps him in this world which he seems hopeless to escape from.

the film is beautifully shot, using very documentary style film making.  this puts the viewer into the world as if it were a documentary.  and the performances feel so natural that i’m actually questioning whether or not i saw a narrative feature or something real.  make sure you check this out as it’s out on dvd right now.  one of the better overlooked films of the year.


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