Writer/director Bari Kang (Lucky) sets his second film The Scrapper in the world of Punjabi immigrants, the criminals among them and where that world intersects with the Mexican cartels. Jake (Bari Kang) used to be a part of that intersection, but after getting out of prison he’s determined to turn his life around.
He makes a living as a scrap metal worker, a scrapper, and lives a quiet life with his pregnant girlfriend, Kitt (Ava Paloma, Deadlock) and his mentally challenged brother J.B. (Gugun Deep Singh, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, The Strain).
They’re getting by, but barely. Or at least they were until Jake’s sister Linda (Allison Thomas Lee, Cries of the Unborn) comes up six figures in debt to the cartel. Jake is pulled back in for one last job, one that will get her out of debt and set him and his family up. Until it all goes wrong and Jake is caught in the middle of feuding gangs.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the darker side of human nature and drawn to the ﬁlms of Scorsese, De Palma, Tarantino, and Melville. The underdog, outcast and anti-hero are who captivate me. This is what inspired me to write The Scrapper, a crime thriller with an ethnic twist, set in a world of Punjabi-Mexican criminals. Inspired by my personal experience as an illegal Punjabi immigrant youth in Queens, New York”,Bari Kang
The Scrapper’s setting, a Punjabi community in the United States, is one I don’t think I’ve seen before in a mainstream American film. But the story it’s telling is a fairly familiar one. It’s setting, with the New York City skyline frequently in the background, just reinforces that familiarity. Jake wants to stay out of jail, move upstate with his family and start a construction company. But with few opportunities to get by, let alone get ahead, he, like so many others before him is forced back into crime.
Kang tells the story in a familiar way, one that works well for a lower budget film like The Scrapper. The first half is almost all dialogue, setting up the characters and situations and showing the protagonist getting backed into a corner by fate. Of course, to make it work the dialogue has to be good and situations have to be interesting enough to keep the viewer invested in the film until the action starts.
Thankfully the dialogue is well written, and The Scrapper’s setting gives the situation a bit of novelty that helps disguise the fact we’ve seen it so many times before. Surprisingly, the heist itself doesn’t get major screen time and the way things unravel is different and a twist I don’t recall seeing before. That should keep most viewers interested until all hell breaks loose in the last act and Jake has to unleash his rage in a bloody, revenge fueled rampage.
There are a few issues with The Scrapper, most notably I was never sure if Raj (Samrat Chakrabarti, BMW: Bombay’s Most Wanted, Stray Dolls) was a corrupt cop or just claiming to be on the force. Also, while as I mentioned, things go wrong in an inventive way I have to wonder why someone like Jake with his criminal background wouldn’t have thought of it.
When all is said and done, The Scrapper is a satisfyingly grim and rather bleak thriller about crime and poverty, revenge and family. And a reminder that some things are the same, no matter what culture you come from.
The Scrapper is available to purchase or rent starting today, December 7th, from 1091 Pictures.