<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Anton Yelchin, Chris Marquette, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sean Patrick Flanery, Maria Valverde, Thomas Jane
When you hear James Cameron and Alfonso Cuarón praising a film in what looks like an advertisement you wonder how good the film really is. It’s also not a good sign when Hollywood blatantly bows down before powerhouse conglomerates like Reliance.
First of all I think it’s a great achievement for an Indian filmmaker to be making a film in Hollywood and Broken Horses isn’t a bad film per se. It’s just extremely bizarre and self-involved. Most of the actors are all solid giving good performances but the plot and dialogue are so over-the-top at times that you’re never truly connected to what’s going on.
The look of Broken Horses reminded me of an 80s film, which isn’t bad; but not necessarily a good 80s film. Buddy’s (Henry Shotwell) Sheriff dad (Thomas Jane) is shot right before his eyes and he must tell his younger violin-playing brother Jakey the horrible news. The local underworld kingpin Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio) makes Buddy believe that he knows who killed his dad and convinces him to go take revenge on the man. Thus starts Buddy’s career as a hit man for Hench so that he can take care of his little brother and build him a ranch of his own someday.
That was ‘15 years ago’ and you cut to present day and Jakey (Anton Yelchin) is a professional violinst living with his fiance Vittoria (Maria Valverde) in New York. Buddy (Chris Marquette), now grown up with a haircut and portrayed to have a mental disorder wants Jakey to come home and see the wedding gift he has for him. Guilt-ridden that he has hardly visited his caretaker brother, Jakey heads off into a weird roller-coaster ride where he’s almost killed but ends up killing his attacker.
He finds his old violin teacher Ignacio (Sean Patrick Flanery) living in a dump, his legs cut off as he wheels around on a motorised chair. There’s a can of fire in the centre of his room to ‘ward off’ Hench who is afraid of fire. This is ostensibly because his wife and son were burnt alive. By him! So he is afraid of candles too… borderline psychotic stuff this.
Buddy sometimes has the innocence of a child and at others brutally kills a man with his bare hands. Hench manipulates him but then you wonder why Jakey has never realised this in all those years and tried to get Buddy out of that situation.
It all seems exceedingly bizarre. At one point you have to believe that Jakey knows nothing about this dark side of Buddy’s life but within no time Jakey suddenly is in league with Hench’s arch nemesis.
Broken Horses is suitably twisted to keep you engaged but you’re left wondering what is going on, what are the motivations here and have the storytellers really given us enough background into the brothers’ lives to make us care for their relationship.