A pivotal scene depicting a double-crossing and murders is intercut with shots of oranges being cut and juiced. In another scene, a horse inexplicably trots into a house and remains there in order to bolt straight out when gunshots are fired. While the second scene may give you one of the most dramatic moments in Broken Horses, both scenes are also overdone. Perhaps writer-producer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra was consciously seeking to create moments that distinguish this English language film from his own 1999 film, Parinda, although that is impossible to do. Broken Horses is essentially a Hollywood version of the Bollywood film with all the melodrama but poorer performances.
When still a child and recently orphaned, the mentally challenged Buddy joins bad-man Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio) and grows up under his tutelage to serve as a heartless killer. Buddy’s younger brother Jacob has been able to continue his education and left this arid, violent and dead-end town to follow his dreams of becoming a professional musician. But when Buddy insists that Jacob come home to receive his wedding present, the younger sibling goes back after eight years. On returning he quickly learns that Buddy, and now he, are trapped by Hench in a life or death situation.
A story of loyalty and brotherhood, the rest of the film is about whether the brothers escape Hench and his evil ways and whether they are able to protect each other till the end. The actors are competent though in dissonance with each other. If Anton Yelchin’s Jacob is wooden and flat, Chris Marquette as the older Buddy is overly dramatic and simplistic in his interpretation of this complex character. Henry Shotwell as the young Buddy is dull. D’Onofrio is menacing but he too veers towards the exaggeration.
While the technical departments – sound, camera, production design – are in fine form, the dialogues are inconsistent and the screenplay largely predictable. The crime drama is a far cry from its original starting point and a dissatisfying effort at an American western, which leaves you wondering why Chopra felt the need to go Hollywood.