Chop Shop will not likely be on top of your all-time favorite films but if you know what you are getting into, it’s more than your average troubled youth film. It has an interesting character and gives you a detailed look into the young boy’s life and his struggle to survive.
Living in Queens, New York on his own, Alejandro , a young and independent adolescent, must find ways to survive. He has no parents looking after him. He lives where he works which is an auto body repair shop. Junkyards surround the area and it is clearly not suitable for children to be in, let alone work and live in. Prostitution and crime are not uncommon in these parts. Alejandro resorts to stealing hub cabs and trading them in for cash.
Chop Shop does not have a plot, conflict or resolution but it does not claim nor try to have any of these. It is more of a day-in-the-life of young street orphan and it’s closer to a documentary than a traditional film. I think a lot of people will have problem with that because throughout the film, there are areas where a lot more could happen. The potential for something significant to occur was available many times, but never executed. It wouldn’t be that surprising to me if it were some sort of autobiography of Ramin Bahrani (the director and writer) for that very reason, it was always realistic.
In more than one way it reminded me of the film Treeless Mountain although Chop Shop was made a year before it. For starters, they both center around young adolescences who basically take care of themselves. In both, they do whatever it takes to get by. Neither one of the films had a score of any sort, which does give off a more documentary or real feel to the films.
Alejandro Polanco did an incredible job playing this role, I hope this is just one of many more to come. The director did a good job showing the lifestyle of the character, the camera work was purposely a tad shaky. It’s not all that surprising that the director, Ramin Bahrani won the Someone to Watch Award at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards and nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematography.
Going into the film Chop Shop with the right mind is essential, you have to know that it is more autobiographical than plot driven. It’s an independent film that while the story is engaging, it ultimately never really climaxes so you have to take it for what it is, a real glimpse of a young adolescent struggling to survive in a rough part of New York.