Film: Broken Horses
Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast: Chris Marquette, Anton Yelchin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Maria Valverde
Broken Horses, set in the dusty terrain of what is vaguely said to be “somewhere” on the US-Mexico border, is seminal director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s feeble attempt to step into the world of Hollywood biggies. A rehash of his most memorable work, Parinda (1989), which saw actors Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Jackie Shroff and Madhuri Dixit play some of their best roles to date, Broken Horses comes nowhere close to recreating the horror and tragedy of that movie.
Set against the backdrop of crime and drug wars on the US-Mexico border, Broken Horses is a tale of two brothers, caught in the clutches of the local mobster Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio). The film opens with Buddy (Chris Marquette), a young slow-witted boy, witnessing the gunning down of his dad who is the sheriff. The distraught teenager, whose love for his younger brother Jake knows no bounds, is desperate for revenge and redemption.
Hench is anxious to mold the impressionable Buddy who can wield a gun like a seasoned mercenary and forces him into a world of crime and violence; and Buddy, loyal to his last bone, complies. Meanwhile, his brother Jake (Anton Yelchin), is insulated from his sibling’s nasty world and is working towards becoming a professional violinist in Manhattan. He’s all set to marry his Italian girlfriend (Maria Valverde), but the guilt of abandoning his elder brother spurs him to return to his native town one last time before the wedding. Without going into details, the trip that was meant to bring the two brothers closer together, turns into a nightmare, where Jake finds himself embroiled in a world very different from his safe-guarded one in New York.
Combining Bollywood melodrama with Hollywood finesse is no easy job, and Chopra seems to have bungled up the whole venture by heavily relying on the former. The bit with a leg-less man going about in a wheelchair, cryptically giving away obvious secrets to young Jake is the most bizarre, outlandish and comical character to come out of Hollywood — and in the most terrible manner, at that.
The performances are flat and do not convey either the angst or the emotional turbulence of any of the characters. Anton Yelchin appears emotion-less, Chris Marquette as the lovable dim-wit is over-reaching and a little too earnest, and Vincent D’Onforio doesn’t manage to terrify. If you remember Nana Patekar from Parinda, you’ll also remember the dread you felt every time he appeared on screen. The sense of personal tragedy, combined with his lust for power and anarchy — this is the stuff of complex pathos and D’Onforio comes nowhere close to capturing any of it.
The camerawork is nothing to write home about. The set-design and production values are top-notch and very believable. Some of the action scenes are beautifully choreographed, as well.
For a film that took four years to be scripted and made, Broken Horses shows neither depth, nor quality. We sincerely hope Vidhu Vinod Chopra decides to make Bollywood films soon, and we can watch the likes of 1942, A Love Story, Parinda, Mission Kashmir on screen again.