Chop Shop

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Year Released: 2007
Rating: 2.0

A waif without parents works for - and lives in - a scrupulous 'auto repair' store in Jamaica, Queens with his runaround sister, sells bootleg DVDs and steals hubcaps with the quixotic hope of buying a truck and starting a Spanish food vending business. Relies too much on the 'cuteness' of its extroverted young huckster for sentimentality, stridently avoiding to address some of the more fundamental questions of the situation - for example: why, if this kid is so savvy, doesn't he realize the vehicle he's buying is up-to-code, why he doesn't go with his sister via bus to Florida (where they apparently have a relative), whether his complicity in his sister's self-exploitation (for his own financial betterment) makes him a loathsome pimp to go along with all his petty thievery, whether our culture 'trains' its young citizens to be money-hording thugs without morals or ethics or even if it's at all possible for not one single person to call Child Services and report this Motherless Child (in our kid-obsessed culture, someone's guilt would push him/her to do something). The picture is successful at depicting the USA as a Third World junkyard - while watching, I was reminded of the first third of Iraq in Fragments with the boy who worked in a shop to support his family - but this is a feature, and it lacks development. It ends with hope fluttering away and Two Children Left Behind.