Home >mint-lounge >features >Film Review: Broken Horses

Set in dusty terrain near the Mexican border, Broken Horses, the English film by writer, producer and director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is about two brothers—a retake of his best-known Hindi film Parinda (1989), which had Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Nana Patekar.

Firmly in the tradition of Westerns, it follows the lives of two orphaned brothers. The elder one, Buddy (Chris Marquette), sees his father being shot. Vulnerable, and described as “slow", Buddy is recruited by gangster Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio) and turns into his key assassin. While Buddy grows up in a lawless environment, younger brother Jakey (Anton Yelchin) is a violinist auditioning for the New York Philharmonic orchestra, and about to get married. But first Jakey must return home to receive his wedding present from his elder brother. Returning to that one-horse town opens up unhealed wounds and forces the brothers to confront some ugly truths.

Hench refuses to let go of Buddy. He will do anything to keep his most efficient, easily manipulated killing machine on the rolls, including bumping off Jakey. When Jakey realizes what Buddy is up against, he orchestrates a rather poorly designed plan to help them both escape.

The performances are mediocre, with D’Onofrio coming across as comically theatrical. Yelchin as Jakey is comatose. Henry Shotwell, playing the younger Buddy, is flat, while Marquette as the older Buddy overdoes the blubbering and wide-eyed innocence supposed to convey his mental disability. The dialogue is derivative and the direction leans heavily on devices and gimmickry. Bizarrely a wheelchair-bound music teacher breathlessly offers clues to an untold story.

Chopra tries to balance Hollywood gloss with Bollywood melodrama, without success. Tom Stern’s camerawork is first-rate and the milieu is believable. The production design includes a visually arresting ranch with a lone white horse and a house on stilts at the edge of a lake. But Broken Horses is ultimately burdened by its own rhetoric and ambition.

Broken Horses released in theatres on Friday.

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