"Man Push Cart" Review

By Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly

New York movies once took place in steam and noise and grit and traffic. It's rare to see that sort of thing today, but "Man Push Cart" is a pungent exception. As Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), a handsome young Pakistani immigrant, drags his coffee-and-doughnut pushcart through the wee hours of the Manhattan morning, the movie immerses you in his humdrum rituals -- the lighting of the bagel oven, the flickering exchanges with customers -- yet it also makes you aware of the life outside his bubble. In its lonely-immigrant-in-the-big-city way, "Man Push Cart" is as steeped in the jumbly anonymity of the streets as "Taxi Driver" was.

The writer-director, Ramin Bahrani, is a natural-born filmmaker who captures how the banal physical details of manning a pushcart could come to define a life. Yet the film's star, Razvi, with his rakish long hair and powerful gaze of broken dreams, cues us to a deeper existence. We learn that Ahmad, despite his current lowly station, was once a pop star in Pakistan, and the movie fills in the missing pieces of his fall from grace. "Man Push Cart" has a didactic sentimental side; its atmosphere is much subtler than its story, and it uses Ahmad's lost celebrity to squeeze poignance out of a situation that would have been poignant enough on its own. Yet this modern slice of neorealism has been made with a skill, and humanity, that suggests Bahrani may have a "Bicycle Thief" in him yet.

Originally Published September 6, 2006

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