Broken Horses is Parinda with all the emotion leached out. Vidhu Vinod Chopra chose to make his Hollywood debut as writer, director and producer with a remake of his 1989 cult classic for a Hollywood audience. The broad outlines of the two brothers, a gang lord with a fear of fire, inter-gang warfare as well as some dialogue are all from Parinda . All the fun, including the flute-playing killer (Suresh Oberoi), the songs, the nativity where you can smell the dust, the oil, the fear, the sweat and the sin has all been inexplicably taken out. Broken Horses has neither the heightened drama of Parinda, nor is it engaging as a standalone movie.
The movie starts with Buddy and his father, the sheriff, shooting at a range. The sheriff is killed and Buddy, who is kind of slow, (poor Jaggu dada!) is co-opted into becoming the hitman for Julius Hench, the bad man in town. Who shot the sheriff? Well, we never find out. Buddy’s younger brother is the talented Jacob who is having a recital at the time when the sheriff is shot. Fifteen years later Jacob is living the life in town trying out for the philharmonic and all set to marry Paro — oh no that is Madhuri Dixit in Parinda ! He is going to marry Vittoria who anyway looks vaguely like Madhuri.
Buddy asks Jacob to come home to see his wedding present. When Jacob returns home, he sees the ranch with the white stallion and you know that is where the wedding night massacre will take place (someone stop me from the Parinda references!).
By doing away with the Anupam Kher killing, Broken Horses doesn’t seem to have any particular reason for things to fall apart.
Why does Jacob decide to join Hench aka Anna Seth? He has to kill his violin teacher to prove his loyalty. Remember Iqbal? Across the border is Musa/ Mario Vargos Garza who is a gun runner and Hench’s rival. Jacob pretends to be a student journalist from NYU to help assassinate Garza. There is a mole in Hench’s gang and a mole hunt led by Jacob. In Parinda we don’t know till quite late that Karan/Jacob wants to destroy Anna for killing his friend, Inspector Prakash (Anupam Kher). And that provides an interesting twist in the narrative. In Broken Horses we know right at the start that Jacob wants to destroy Hench “from the inside” so the surprise element is not there.
On the other hand, we don’t know what turned Jacob from nice preppie violin player to cold blooded assassin and after a point we don’t care.
Also though Broken Horses is supposed to be about drug wars, everything is rather vanilla and anaemic. The film is quite handsome looking thanks to DOP Tom Stern. Vincent D'Onofrio plays Julius Hench as an avuncular elder statesman. Anton Yelchin is Jacob and Chris Marquette is Buddy.
If Broken Horses was supposed to be Parinda for Hollywood, the passion, emotion, guilt, love and redemption should all have been there, the songs could have been taken out (even the melodic Tumse Milke , sigh). Or Chopra should have made a completely different film. This straddling of stools always runs the risk of falling in between.