The Scrapper follows a pretty traditional “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” plot but does so with low-budget charm and great action. Jake (Bari Kang, who also wrote and directed) is a Punjabi-American ex-con haunted by the sins of his past and the ties that remain to a world he’d rather leave behind. He wants to stay legit, working a humble life with a job in scrap metal (thus the title). But Jake’s girlfriend is pregnant and his brother, JB (Gugun Deep Singh), has developmental issues and needs his full-time care. Basically, Jake has a lot on his plate and one last job could set everything right. Right?
Soon he’s drawn into a web of deceit and crime against the backdrop of a war between Mexican drug cartels and the Punjabi mafia. The abuse of immigrant communities by established criminal forces is front and center in The Scrapper, giving it a unique texture despite the story being pretty run-of-the-mill. It doesn’t necessarily prescribe a solution for the issue of unsupported communities being corralled into lives on the other side of the law due to shrinking opportunities, but it still uses the issue to good effect. That’s all you can really ask for in a genre with such tried and true dramatic beats.
For the most part, The Scrapper does a pretty great job hitting those beats. There are colorful crime bosses, conniving corrupt police officers and noble intentions colliding with the darkness of reality. Jake thinks he’s gotten out for good, and by the time he makes his escape upstate, we hope nobody will follow him but also know better than to get those hopes up. There are some well-directed, intense sequences, some good gore and cathartic comeuppances. It delivers what it needs to by nature of its genre; shoutout to the great moment with the axe. Thankfully, it doesn’t go out of its way to give Jake a hero’s ending: rather, it settles for a much more down-to-earth conclusion that allows its main character to learn, but suffer, from actions he ought not to have taken.
Production-wise, Kang and his crew craft a film that looks great and conveys a real vision, even if its budget is sometimes visible. Sure, there are sequences of the same men chatting in the same room perhaps far too often, but variety is secondary to telling a story if that’s the best option available. What matters is that it’s a convincing film with a compelling, well-portrayed protagonist, good action and a thoughtfully downbeat conclusion.