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Studio: Kino
Year: 2008
Cast: Charles Jang, Jeng-Hua Yu, Wang-Thye Lee, Justin Wan
Director: Sean Baker & Shih-Ching Tsou
Release Date: August 30, 2009, 4:45 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:28m:09s

ìThe whole reason I came here was to make money.î - Ming Ding (Charles Jang)

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Sometimes a positive quote by a reviewer on the front of a DVD case is enough to instantly grab my attention, and I'm hoping this more than lives up to such praise.

Movie Grade: B+

DVD Grade: B+

Some movies rely solely on the atmosphere that a director creates. Atmosphere is the driving force behind most of the great David Lynchís films, from Eraserhead to Inland Empire, but those films craft a feeling of otherworldly dread and also rely on plenty of symbolism to advance the story. The tiny, cheaply made, Chinese- language film Take Out has a pair of directors, Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou using the ultra realistic location of the streets of New York City to take us along for the same bike ride that the filmís protagonist is on almost throughout the movieís running time. Itís this digitally shot, guerilla filmmaking style that sets the film apart from most others making the art house rounds currently, and also most of the reason that Take Out was nominated for the 2009 John Cassavetes Award at this yearís Independent Spirit Awards.

Ming Ding (Charles Jang) is an illegal Chinese immigrant working a low-paying job as a Chinese food delivery man. This is not a typical day, as Ming is awakened by loan sharks demanding a large payment by the evening. At a total loss as to how to acquire such a large sum of money, Ming sets out to work, trying to complete as many deliveries as possible and hoping a bit of fortune comes his way. Can he really make a ton of money by bicycling door to door, getting one lousy tip after another? In the streets of New York City, anything can happen.

If you werenít privy to opposite information, youíd probably insist that Take Out was a documentary. It definitely has that feel, as the filmmakers put us over the shoulder of Ming Ding whether heís on his bike or knocking on an apartment door to deliver food. We get so wrapped up in the various customers he encounters that itís easy to forget the importance of the financial ultimatum the loan sharks greeted him with first thing in the morning. Charles Jang is a revelation as Ming, remaining quiet and focused throughout much of the film, but revealing an amazingly human side throughout the last 20 minutes.

Thereís a nice, light-hearted feel to much of the film, despite Ming Dingís plight. Nowhere is this more evident than in the scene between Ming and Young (Jeng-Hua Yu), during which the latter tries to convince the former to start saying a simple ìthank you very muchî to his customers in an attempt to get more in the way of tips. This is a funny, touching sequence that is perfectly placed near the filmís half-way point; providing much needed laughs when all weíve felt up to this point is a sense of dread and little hope for Ming to accomplish his daunting task.

Still, this is a rather slowly paced film that might test the patience of many filmgoers, but if you go along for the ride, the ending of Take Out will prove to be extremely rewarding. Without divulging anything, during this poignant, moving scene, it becomes clear what is truly driving Ming to live such a stressful, unrewarding life, and we realize that such things can drive anyone towards taking life-altering risks. Such a revelation makes what follows even more heartbreaking than it normally would be. Kinoís DVD release presents this digitally-shot, mega-low-budget film in the best way we could hope for. The extras collection is an excellent one, complete with a great audio commentary track with the directors and star of the film, as well as some interviews, deleted scenes, and Charles Jangís audition tape.

Chuck Aliaga August 30, 2009, 4:45 pm