Broken Horses is more bleak than beautiful
Starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Anton Yelchin. Rated PG. Now playing
Broken Horses is veteran Indian director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s attempt to crossover into English language films, relocating his groundbreaking 1989 film, Parinda, to a desolate American town “somewhere near the Mexican border”. Though the story of spiraling violence and lawlessness transplants easily into this locale, the film’s underlying tenor of hopelessness is unlikely to garner a large audience.
The lives of brothers Buddy (Chris Marquette) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) have veered in opposite directions since the murder of their father 15 years ago. Jacob is now an accomplished violinist in New York City who hasn’t been home in seven years. Meanwhile, the developmentally delayed Buddy has been groomed by local gangster Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio). Hench has turned him into an efficient killer by manipulating Buddy’s vulnerability and his need for approval by a father figure. When Jacob returns to the town and begins to understand whom Buddy has been working for, a relentless cycle of violence begins.
Despite the wide shots of the big southwestern sky, the unnamed town in this film feels claustrophobic. There is nowhere to run and Hench’s authority has no countering force. Jacob can only rely on his ability to out strategize Hench.
Broken Horses has the loneliness of cowboy noir coupled with the filial love and loyalty that is at the core of so many Bollywood plots. Despite the solid performances by the cast, it’s an overwrought story that is more bleak than beautiful.
It is also unclear who the intended audience might be. Bollywood fans will skip Broken Horses and the rest of the world is unlikely to hear of it. While North American and European directors routinely tell stories of the global south to mass appeal, it is unclear whether the world is interested in the reverse.