Ramin Bahrani's impressive debut feature focuses on an urban fixture that busy city dwellers often take for granted: pushcart operators, mostly recent immigrants who, early each morning, set up their self-contained, quilted-chrome stands in heavily trafficked business areas, and serve coffee and assorted breakfast items to sleepy commuters. Long before sunrise, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) drags his cart through the half-empty streets of Manhattan to his spot on a soon-to-be-bustling sidewalk. He arranges his donuts and bagels, fires up his propane tank and begins brewing coffee. Aside from the cash he pulls in peddling cheap porn DVDs on the side, the pushcart is Ahmad's sole source of income, and he hopes to one day save enough money to buy his cart and move out of his squalid, one-room Brooklyn apartment. Once he does, Ahmad might even gain custody of his 6-year-old son, Sajjad (Hassan Razvi), who has lived with Ahmad's in-laws since his wife's death one year earlier. One morning, Ahmad serves coffee to Mohammad (Charles Daniel Sandoval), a well-dressed, obviously successful businessman who, like Ahmad, hails from Lahore, Pakistan. Mohammad asks Ahmad if he'd like to make a little extra money doing work around his luxury apartment, but it isn't until later that Mohammad realizes why Ahmad looks familiar: Ahmad was once the biggest rock star in Pakistan, a teen idol known as the "Bono of Lahore." Mohammad offers to hook Ahmad up with a friend who operates one of the hottest clubs in the city, in an effort to restart Ahmad's career in America. Ahmad is grateful, but pride and Mohammad's interest in the pretty Spanish news agent (Leticia Dolera) who's recently arrived from Barcelona and already stolen Ahmad's already bruised heart, threatens their arrangements. Watching Ahmad drag his pushcart through the predawn hours, it's hard not to think of Sisyphus, the hapless soul of Greek myth who rolled his huge stone up a steep hill only to have it roll back to the bottom each time; the deliberate word transposition in the film's title reduces Ahmad's entire existence to that seemingly futile activity. And the events of Bahrani's film unfold with the same, inexorable predictability — nothing happens that you didn't anticipate from the outset — but it's beautifully played by Bahrani's largely inexperienced cast. Razvi, once a pushcart vendor himself, is particularly good; he brings a visceral poignancy to a character who comes to represent every desperate soul who ever tried to make it in the land of plenty.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
- Review: Ramin Bahrani's impressive debut feature focuses on an urban fixture that busy city dwellers often take for granted: pushcart operators, mostly recent immigrants who, early each morning, set up their self-contained, quilted-chrome stands in heavily traffic… (more)