Broken Horses Movie Poster
Broken Horses Movie Poster

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars (Two and half stars)

Star Cast: María Valverde, Thomas Jane, Vincent D’Onofrio, Anton Yelchin, María Valverde

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

What’s Good: Vincent D’Onofrio does a fabulous job as Julius Hench, the lead antagonist. In this rather confused plot, he is the only thing that stands tall as pure ‘bad man’ as Buddy’s character would call it. Other than that, Broken Horses may need a mention only because it is the first Hollywood drama to have been directed by an Indian even though it becomes quite self explanatory after watching it.

What’s Bad: Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s lack of clarity in making the film either completely western or Indian-inspired western. Since it is based on his own 1989 Hindi film Parinda, it is difficult to see him struggle with the plot which is edited for western standards and yet fails to achieve the purpose.

Loo break: Certainly! This one’s a slow poison.

Watch or Not?: There is absolutely nothing genius about Broken Horses. Chopra very conveniently feeds us his Bombay gangster saga Parinda with a Mexican mafia coating and thinks that cowboy hats and Italian gangsters will blow our minds. In case you haven’t watched Parinda, watch it, that is definitely a better work of Chopra than Broken Horses.

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Taking off with a flashback of 15 years prior to present day, we see Gabriel Heckum (Thomas Jane) in a shooting range where he is accompanied by his son Buddy Heckum (Chris Marquette). While Buddy has hurried to call his dad for his little brother (Nicholas Neve) Jakey’s violin recital, Heckum senior in a dramatic manner says ‘There is still plenty of time’ only to get shot in the next scene.

After experiencing the trauma seeing his father get shot in the head, a vulnerable Buddy is taken under the wing by a local crime kingpin Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio). As years pass by, a slow-witted Buddy is trained by Hench to become a hitman and Jacob aka Jakey who moves to New York thanks to his brother’s provisions has been interviewed for a job at Philharmonic and is slated to have a wedding with his lady love Vittoria (Maria Velverde).

Before his wedding ceremony Jacob (Anton Yelchin) receives an invitation from his brother Buddy to visit home for a surprise gift. As Jakey returns to home town and meets his brother, he is soon exposed to the reality of Buddy being a part of Hench’s gang. What entails is a story of brotherhood as Jackey must risk his life to save his brother from the clutches of evil Hench. On this journey, he is guided by his childhood music master Ignacio (Sean Patrick Flannery) who is now a cripple since Hench has cut off his feet as a punishment to helping his wife and son escape town.

Amidst this dangerous mafia, will Jakey be able to save his mentally unstable brother Buddy?

Anton Yelchin and María Valverde in a still from movie 'Broken Horses'
Anton Yelchin and María Valverde in a still from movie ‘Broken Horses’

Broken Horses Review: Script Analysis

It is hard to see a fine writer and director like Vidhu Vinod Chopra struggle with his own script. After witnessing his notable works such as Khamosh or for that matter his simplistic writing of Ferrari Ki Sawaari, his first Hollywood drama seems quite fickle. Why was a fresh script so difficult to produce is the only question that riddled me. Parinda has been his own gem in Hindi cinema and even though it was already inspired from a Hollywood film, once again remaking it in the form of Broken Horses which does not even hit the right notes is a downer.

While Chopra edits the script this time to fit in with the western standards, they remain unfinished and unblended. Abhijaat Joshi also writes the dialogues and sadly they seem quite awkward and abrupt. The writing seems too Desi and at some point you feel it is more like watching a dubbed version of a Hindi film. Also Ignacio’s story seems too dramatic in the plot and gives a bit of surreal touch to the realism that the bonding of two estranged brothers brings in the story. At a point when Buddy meets his to-be sister-in-law, you feel he may present to her the “Khandaani Kangan” or so; but well this is Hollywood so he takes her to the ranch he built for his brother as a wedding gift.

Broken Horses Review: Star Performances

Chris Marquette as Buddy Heckum does a great job. The slow witted Buddy has some intense scenes and especially the one where he kills a man with his bare hands, Chris excels in it. There is so much genuinity in Chris’s work that you actually feel for his character. He owns Buddy’s character from the first frame.

Anton Yelchin becomes the younger brother Jacob Heckum. Yelchin puts up a good show but Chris Marquette and Vincent’s characters overshadow his honest character.

Vincent D’Onofrio is the hero of the film. He is a delicious antagonist and his mind games with Buddy just make you hate him even more. He is cold as stone and his grim nature will send chills down your spine.

Maria Velvarde who plays Vittoria, Jacob’s fiancé has little screen time. Her character is not as much developed and so other than coming off as a caring wife-to-be, she does not have a plum role.

Sean Patrick Flannery as Ignacio is another actor who gives a brief but power packed performance. As a crippled, who has lost his legs because of evil Hench, he has little screen time but he manages to put up a great act.

Broken Horses Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is known to be an ace director when it comes to Bollywood but does he keep up his work for Hollywood too?

Well, I was disappointed to find out Chopra remaking his own classic. Parinda is one film that has been acclaimed in Bollywood and in spite of it being already inspired from a Hollywood drama, another remake seems futile. What Chopra fails to do with the script, his camera work on the other hand makes up for it. Tom Stern captures landscapes and more over panoramic views of the hills beautifully. The art and production department too do a fine job as Jacob’s ranch looks breathtaking as though painted on a canvas.

The natural lighting is also used well and scenes shot in the twilight make up a good viewing experience. This is one film where I love the technical departments as they have done a great job and if only Chopra had set out with a better script I would have been satisfied with the film. No doubt, his forte is capturing emotions but with this one, I could not connect well.

Broken Horses Review: The Last Word

Broken Horses looks beautiful but an insufficient plot kills it. The Parinda inspired plot does not blend well for the west. I am going with a 2.5/5 for this film.

Broken Horses Trailer

Broken Horses releases on 10th April, 2015.

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