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Summary / Analysis
Times of India
Buddy (Marquette) and Jacob (Yelchin) are brothers who lose their sheriff father at an early age. Buddy, despite being the town simpleton, takes charge of his brother, who is a budding violinist. Buddy drops out of school and becomes the breadwinner. Many years later, Jacob, about to wed his fiancee Vittoria (Valverde), returns to his hometown to meet Buddy and stumbles upon a host of unpleasant truths.
Buddy is doggedly protective of his younger brother. It's almost like this protectiveness is hardwired into Buddy's simple mind as his core mission in life. Even as a child, he gives a share of his first paycheque (a few measly dollars) to his brother to purchase a violin. Later, Buddy would earn some serious money when he is trained (or rather, cleverly manipulated) by local crime boss Julius Hench (D'Onofrio) to become his hitman.
Years later, Buddy is overjoyed that Jacob (now a hipster in New York) is getting married and makes good on his childhood promise to gift his brother a ranch and a white horse with a tanned, red leather saddle. 'Jakey' doesn't know where Buddy got the money for all of it and is aghast when in time, he figures out the source of these gains and what's really going on. Soon, it is time for Jacob to step in and look out for his brother's safety.
Tom Stern's innovative use of light and shadow for the daytime, interior and night-time scenes add weight to the film, conveying the appropriate moods effectively. The evening shadows only highlight the sense of intrigue and dark secrets that abound in this town. Sure, there are a few moments of unnecessarily heightened melodrama and if anything, we would have liked to have seen more consistency when it comes to the grittiness and dark edges. In terms of performances though, D'Onofrio and Marquette pull in the punches.
All said and done, the overriding message of Broken Horses is, of course, one of brotherly love and the fact that although circumstances might change, some bonds remain unbroken.
Parinda on a prayer
I watched Parinda as an impressionable child who would later go on to discover that 1942: A Love Story wasn't an Erich Segal prequel. I still fear pulling a blanket over my head at night (with or without a partner), forever expecting Nana 'Anna' Patekar to empty his machine gun into my bed. No wedding night will be the same again; so devastating has been Vidhu Vinod Chopra's vision-a turning point in Hindi cinema-on ordinary lives. Broken Horses is Mr. Chopra's excitable tribute to himself, an English-language re-imagination of the classic crime tale about two orphaned brothers, along the Mexican-American border.
Buddy (Marquette) becomes a hired mercenary for local psychopath Julius Hench (D'Onofrio). This villainous Hench fellow runs some sort of moneymaking racket under the guise of a cinema theatre business-possibly a well-ornamented barb at many mainstream Bollywood directors. Or possibly not. All's bloody and dandy until blissfully ignorant NY-Philharmonic-bound and marriage-bound brother Jacob (Yelchin; dull) returns to the lawless hometown. Buddy, who has painstakingly built an expensive ranch-a childhood dream-for Jacob, plans to inexplicably leave this ranch and settle in New York with him, much to the displeasure of mob boss Hench.
Mr. Chopra's choice of setting is a dusty designer one-horse ranch that seems to have been constructed on the outskirts of Los Angeles-a familiar universe, which explains why I kept expecting pretty elopers Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori (from Kites) to pop in from the Mexican side.
In his quest to Hollywoodize a plot that doesn't really need to be changed or watered down, he turns to the oldest and most disappointing trick in the book: Buddy is equipped with a mental disability; and though Marquette does an endearing job of it, much theatricality and corniness is derived from his condition. His master pooch relationship with Hench becomes verbose and manipulative, constantly interrupted by the filmmaker's relentless search for that timeless cinematic moment. One can sense the excitement of the filmmaker, with his toys in a new landscape; every interaction is designed to be memorable, and forcibly penetrated with aesthetics. Instead of fat flying pigeons, we are subjected to self-conscious meta images of freshly squeezed orange juice intercut with gang murders, recorders used as diaries-an instrument for mawkish voiceovers, gunshots fired in dark reel-heavy projection booths, fiery explosions seen from underwater, pretty girls riding white stallions in a dreamy day-for-night sequence-she inexplicably leads the horse into the cabin, only so that it can be exquisitely framed galloping out to gunshots later.
There's a thin line between self indulgent and pretentious; a line that Mr. Chopra crosses repeatedly under pressure to manufacture something truly symbolic.
With the showboating Broken Horses, he joins the growing herd of Indian cinema's finest filmmakers who surprisingly find more merit in adapting and remaking old literary and film works. Perhaps it's time to stop romanticizing the past, and create a more original legacy-original stories, new visions, enduring cinematic memories that can be frequented with admiration by future generations. Instead of recreating Parinda, perhaps it is time for someone to create a new Parinda.
Broken Horses is the first Hollywood movie that has been produced, directed and written by an Indian.
Ben Foster and Val Kilmer were originally cast to play some roles in the film.
Nicoles Cage and Mickey Rourke were the original choice to star in the movie.
Broken Horses is Vidhu Vinod Chopra's second association with Hollywood.
Chris Marquette and Sean Patrick Flanery replaced Ben Foster and Val Kilmer respectively in Broken Horses.
At the beginning of the movie, we see a young Buddy visit his father, who is a Sheriff, at a shooting range. His dad is practicing with his revolver and gives Buddy a turn to fire some rounds. His shooting is accurate and earns praise from his father. When they go to place a fresh target on the shooting range, an assailant shoots the Sheriff from behind.
The next day, Buddy goes back to work and is met by Hench, who gives Buddy a photo of a man, telling him that that person is his father's murderer. Buddy goes to this person's home at night and shoots him at point blank range. Buddy, who is quite unaware of what he has done [he thinks he has merely avenged his dad, and not murdered someone in cold blood] and sits next to his brother Jacob on the porch of their house and tells him that he will one day gift Jacob a ranch and a white horse.
Many years later, we see Jacob and his fiancee doing up their apartment in New York. He gets a call from his brother and after some persuasion from Vittoria, he goes to visit. Jacob is stunned when his brother [not the brightest kid on the block] shows him a new ranch and a white stallion. These are wedding gifts. Buddy also tells Jake that he will give up working with Hench [Jacob doesn't know that Buddy is a hitman] and take care of his kids when the time comes. However, Hench doesn't like anyone leaving him. He in fact, burned his own wife and kid when they tried to escape and even got the legs of the man [Sean Patrick Flanery as Ignacio, who was Jacob's violin teacher] who helped them with two train tickets, chopped off by placing him on a train track.
Buddy has a new best friend named Eric [Juan Riedinger] who is basically one of Hench's men and is lumped with Buddy as a means for Hench to control him. Jacob takes Buddy's car to go visit Ignacio and is shocked to see him almost crazy and without legs. Ignacio does however tell Jacob that the only way to get the better of Hench is from 'the inside'.
On his way back, Eric tries to shoot Jacob [he is sent by Hench] but the latter kills Eric with his own gun. He gets back and finds that Buddy has heard about this [from Hench] and is very upset. Buddy doesn't tell him that he killed Eric, albeit out of self-defense. Hench comes visiting and he meets Jacob. Buddy lies that the both of them were playing checkers the whole time, and that is Jacob's alibi.
Jacob tells Hench that he would like to take care of his brother as he never had the chance to do so earlier and he would like Buddy to join him. In time, Hench gives Buddy a mission that is pretty much a one-way ticket. He has to cross over to Mexico and shoot a Mexican gun-runner named Mario Vargos Garza [Jordi Caballero]. Jacob asks Hench to take Buddy's place. He poses as a journalist and meets Garza, asking him various questions. When he asks Garza why he sleeps in a different bed each night, Garza freaks out and tells him that he knows Jacob has been sent by Hench. Garza's men kill five of Hench's men and send him back the photographs. Garza also records a message for Hench, saying there's a rat in his theatre. In order for Jacob to go to meet Garza, he had to pass a test. This involved him killing Ignacio. In actual fact, Ignacio was pretty fed up with his life anyways and practically pulled the trigger himself. This was the test.
However, the meeting with Garza was a ruse designed to trick Hench into believing that Jacob was 'spared' and killing Garza was impossible. Jacob and Garza had an arrangement to weaken Hench's power. Jacob calls Hench at night and that call is traced and reported to Hench. The next day, Buddy kills one of Hench's men who gets a call back from Garza in a staged situation designed to expose the 'rat' in their midst. It was also revealed later that Hench had killed Buddy and Jacob's dad.
Vittoria surprises Jacob by showing up later one day, demanding to know everything. Meanwhile, Garza tells Hench who the 'rat' is by saying it is the 'journalist', meaning Jacob. Hench also gets to know that it was Jacob who killed Eric. He decides to use this to manipulate Buddy into killing Jacob.
While this is going on, Buddy, Jacob and Vittoria get together in the ranch for a meal of some baked trout. They exchange gifts from the past and convince Buddy to come with them to Verona to be the best man. While Buddy is getting dressed, Hench visits him and tells him that Jacob killed Eric and that he must kill Eric. He uses the analogy of a horse that had to be put down out of compassion when it was bitten by a fox, to tell Buddy that Jacob has become 'sick' and also, needs to be put down. An act of love, apparently. Buddy visits Jacob and Vittoria and fires two shots but not at them. Outside, Hench thinks the job is done. However, Buddy helps his brother and Vittoria escape. Later, Hench praises Buddy and tells him that it is now his turn to die. But Buddy instead ignites a propane gas outlet that he had turned on earlier and blows all of them, himself included, up. He sacrifices his life so that his brother can get married and live happily ever after.
In a concluding scene, a fantasy sequence depicts what could have been if Buddy was alive and had gone to the wedding.