Broken Horses review: Parinda returns in Mexico

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 11, 2015 14:49 IST

Vidhu Vinod Chopra had said time and again before the release of Broken Horses that he decided to make the film to prove a point.

"Bollywood is looked down upon by Hollywood, whether you like it or not. They think we do over-the-top, song and dance. They think we can't do what they do. I wanted to show them that we can do something as good as them, if not better," Chopra said in an interview.

The film has got rave reviews from filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and James Cameron but the critics have not been so encouraging. The international reviews ranged between cool to openly critical. Nicolas Rapold of NY Times writes, "Mr. Chopra says his well-liked fraternal drama Parinda inspired this film, but something happened on the way to Broken Horses, which makes a risibly sentimental refrain of Buddy's expression of excitement: 'I'll go bananas. Bananas!'"

He also said the three main characters from the film "get entangled in a wonkily plotted story punctuated with the visual bombast of white horses and C.G.I. flames. Buddy and Jakey have the sort of brotherly bond that is anchored in endlessly mentioned pacts from childhood."

Critics have singled out this scene for its sheer melodrama.

While Chopra has said Broken Horses is not a Parinda remake, the plot has more than a few similarities. Music prodigy Jacob Heckum (Anton Yelchin) returns home years after his father's death to find his child-like older brother Gabriel aka Buddy (Chris Marquette) works for a notorious drug boss (Vincent D'Onofrio). Wracked by guilt and unable to cut Gabriel loose from the gang, Jacob decides he needs to work from the inside out.

Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune recalls Parinda as well in his review. "In Parinda, one of the brothers speaks of 'rotting away in America.' The remake suggests a movie made by the Parinda character while he was stuck out West without much to do."

The critic goes on to say, "The same director's Parinda followed the Bollywood custom of interpolating song and dance into any and every genre of movie. I wish Broken Horses had gone all the way and given everyone at least one number. Instead, we settle for laboured scenes of self-conscious montage (a string of hotel assassinations cross-cut with shots of an orange getting squished in a juicer) and Marquette's Buddy, grinding every little dialogue exchange to a dead halt for another round of tears."

Variety's Ben Kenigsberg points out certain scenes with which he has problem. "Some of Chopra's formal choices likewise court bad laughs. A tense, Goodfellas-style dolly zoom as Jakey seeks Julius' permission to accompany Buddy to Mexico is rendered comical when Chopra cuts to the reverse shot - another dolly zoom. In one sequence, the movie crosscuts between a mass hit and oranges being juiced. In a bit of bombast near the end, we watch in long shot as the white horse, which has sauntered into the ranch house, goes running out after gunshots are fired."

Jakob's infiltration of Hench's gang has also been criticised.

"Built around a distasteful portrayal of Buddy's mental disability as both magical and monstrous, Indian director Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Broken Horses is an otherwise predictably violent tour through drug gang warfare on the Mexican border," says Sara Stewart's review in The New York Post .

Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle calls the "end rather pointless" but says the film is a "delight in extremity". "The older brother, Buddy (Chris Marquette), who makes Lenny in Of Mice and Men look like a Mensa member, becomes a hit man for a vicious gang leader. And Jacob (Anton Yelchin) becomes a concert violinist. Vincent D'Onofrio plays the gang leader, chewing every bit of scenery, including that which is nailed down - and then he eats the nails," he writes.

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