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Dreams, detours get 'Bought & Sold'

In the affecting drama, an aspiring DJ begins working for a loan shark and meets people who cause him to reconsider the direction of his life.

June 25, 2004|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

Writer-director Michael Tolajian mines the diversity of a multiethnic enclave of storefront shops in Jersey City, N.J., to craft the well-acted drama "Bought & Sold." Leavened with humor, the film traces a young man's hard-won entry into adulthood as he discovers his priorities.

A year out of high school, Ray Ray Morales is anxious to make it as a DJ and is growing frustrated by the low pay, not to mention the smelly feet, associated with his job as a shoe salesman. Played by Rafael Sardina, who resembles a young Oscar De La Hoya, Ray Ray feels pressure from his pushy fiancee, Hilda (Cristina Ablaza), and his own creative ambitions.

To help Ray Ray save for a turntable he's been eyeing in the window of a pawnshop, his friend Papo (Frank Harts) hooks him up with a second job working for a loan shark who also deals in "gaming interests," "pharmaceutical sales" and "vehicle export."

"It's important to diversify," says Alphonso "Chunks" Colon (Joe Grifasi), who fancies himself as the neighborhood padrone. After determining Ray Ray is too smart to waste on petty crime, Chunks gives him an assignment working at the pawnshop monitoring its cash flow. The proprietor, an elderly Armenian named Kutty Nazarian (David Margulies), owes Chunks a great deal of money and it becomes Ray Ray's responsibility to ensure the weekly payments are met.

Kutty runs the shop with help from his attractive niece, Ruby (Marjan Neshat), who catches Ray Ray's eye and encourages him to pursue his dreams. Hilda, on the other hand, doesn't care what Ray Ray does for a living as long as he provides for her in the manner she envisions.

Chunks is at first paternal toward Ray Ray, but when business becomes business, things get ugly fast and the younger man is forced to choose which path his life will take. Tolajian creates a viable, self-contained world and does a nice job of integrating veterans Grifasi and Margulies with an ensemble of newcomers. The story wraps a little too neatly and backs away from some of its darker impulses but is finally a sweet-natured tale of male rituals and cultural adaptation in urban America.


'Bought & Sold'

MPAA rating: R for language and sexual references

Times guidelines: Threats of violence

Rafael Sardina...Ray Ray Morales

David Margulies...Kutty Nazarian

Joe Grifasi..."Chunks" Colon

Marjan Neshat...Ruby

Frank Harts...Papo Rivera

A Pawnshop Pictures production, released by Pathfinder Pictures. Writer-director Michael Tolajian. Producers Bergen Swanson, Michael Tolajian. Cinematographer Kip Bogdahn. Editors Seth Anderson, Michael Tolajian. Costume designer Michelle Phillips. Music Joe Delia. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

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