Scraping for a living in the shadow of that holy of professional baseball holies, Shea Stadium, twelve year-old Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco) does everything an impoverished, parentless, out-of-school 12-year-old can do to survive in the lowest depths of one of New York City’s strangest and direst areas, Willets Point, Queens. He calls his boss Rob’s (Rob Sowulski) auto body shop both his workplace and home, hustles pornographic DVDs, robs U.S. Open patrons, steals hub caps from Shea’s parking lot for extra cash, and saves up precious money to buy a used mobile-food van along with his 16-year-old prostitute sister, Isamar (Isamar Gonzales), in order to, as they dream, start their own business.
But at the bottom things don’t just lead straight up. As in his stunningly assured debut, Man Push Cart, Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani uses Chop Shop not to sentimentalize the travails of one of NYC’s multitudinous, ignored underclass, but to discover, as Arthur Miller once said of The Bicycle Thief, “Everyman’s search for dignity.” Or in this case, Everyboy’s. Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Chop Shop.