Chop Shop aims to be an exploitation revenge flick in the vein of I Spit on Your Grave or its little-seen sequel, I Pass Gas on Your Sarcophagus — and for a while, it succeeds. For a while. In classic exploitation style, the story is simple — boys meet girl, boys rape girl, girl kills boys — but there’s too little plot here to fill Chop Shop‘s 90-minute running time. (It even pads the script by throwing in a subplot involving stolen cars that literally goes nowhere after one scene.)
The set-up is intriguing, though: the film is supposedly based on the real-life journal of a woman named Lisa Stewart (Shannon Michaels) that was found in an auto repair shop back in 1994…along with the bodies of four employees. The story is told via flashbacks as a smoky, Red Shoe Diaries-esque narrator waxes poetic over Lisa’s journal entries — granted, she lacks the eloquence of David Duchovny: “Now, I never had a near-death experience, but Lisa, she nearly did.” A near-near-death experience?
She relates that Lisa got into a car accident in some podunk town in Georgia and for some reason decided to get her car fixed there as well. Do I really need to go any further, or can we just agree that from here on, she deserves what she gets? Anyway, the good ol’ boys (and one girl!) who work in the “gee-rage” decide to have a little fun, because what better place to gang rape someone than in your place of employment? They could never trace it back to you!
ANYWAY…the abuse isn’t especially graphic (no nudity, you pervs), but it goes on and on and on, with Lisa attempting to escape numerous times, only to be dragged back for another round. If nothing else, it succeeds in getting under your skin. (Interestingly, despite the whole rednecks vs. black gal angle, race is never mentioned as an issue.)
Given the discomfort of sitting through this for nearly 20 minutes, you’d hope the payback would be worth the wait, but, like so many of these films, that’s not the case. Only the female perpetrator’s comeuppance is appropriately torturous; I won’t describe it, but let’s just say there’s a reason why Hoover doesn’t make sexual aids.
The other three deaths are tame, which is particularly irritating since we’re subjected to ANOTHER nearly 20 minutes of the aftermath of the rape in which Lisa re-lives it sitting in the closet…and lying in the bathtub…and sipping tea…and jogging in the park…and taking a shower. I appreciate the attempt to show realistic catharsis, but damn, I’ve got skin cells dying over here.
As mediocre as the revenge is, though, it’s brilliant compared to what follows: a “twist ending” that makes no sense whatsoever and trivializes the rest of the film’s supposed seriousness. The acting in general is likewise “choppy”; newcomer Michaels is competent pre-rape, but once she snaps, she turns into some sort of rabid, over-the-top Bond villain, complete with black stilettos and garish makeup. Maybe nudity wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all.