02nd Oct2015

LFF 2015: ‘Beeba Boys’ Review

by Mark Allen

Stars: Randeep Hooda, Ali Momen, Sarah Allen, Waris Ahluwalia, Ali Kazmi, Steve Dhillon, Jag Bal, Gabe Grey, Dileep Rao, Gia  | Written and Directed by Deepa Mehta

beeba-cast

Beeba Boys starts with a scene straight out of Goodfellas: six men drive to a rendezvous, telling jokes and ribbing one another. They arrive at the—, three expensive-looking cars meeting outside a glitzy hotel, and Jeet (Randeep Hooda), the leader of the group, gets out, threatens the apologetic  man receiving them and casually shoots him in the head before doing the same to his girlfriend, an act that is treated as the sequence’s punchline. This isn’t your ordinary gangster film, though – at least not aesthetically – because these men are Indo-Canadian Sikhs jostling for territory in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, this adds more novelty value than anything; though the spoken dialogue flits between Punjabi and English, different cultural events are exploited to the advantage of Jeet’s gang (like the wedding/funeral of the man they kill in the opening) and the protagonist still lives with his parents, this is as conventional a mob story as any you’ve seen. I was given hope when I saw Waris Ahluwalia, an actor I’m familiar with from Wes Anderson’s  films. It was quickly deflated when it became clear he was miscast as the jokey nihilist of the gang and couldn’t really sell the one dimension his character – like the rest of the cast – is given.

The story is one we’ve seen before: Jeeta is a violent yet charismatic thug who’s just trying to raise his son right while running a cocaine and guns business out of his parents’ basement. Local rival, Grewal, is growing increasingly anxious due to Jeeta’s ballsy attacks on his business and celebrity status with the Canadian media, so he dispatches a small-time crook to destroy his operation from within. What follows is a tried-and-tested tale of double-crossing (and triple-crossing) that shoots for more style than substance. The style in question? Undoubtedly the film is straining for Scorsese levels of amorality softened by intoxicating visual flourishes and humorous, likable characters. Unfortunately for Beeba Boys, nobody can do Scorsese quite like the master himself, so the result is an underwhelming pastiche that feels more mean-spirited than charming.

Genre clichés and stiff dialogue run rampant, as does the sidelining of female characters and downright misogyny, which is a trope this kind of movie can really afford to be done with by now. A title card at the end of the film informing the audience that there have been hundreds of gang-related deaths in Vancouver over the last ten years suggests that writer-director Deepa Mehta (who has received acclaim in the past for her previous, presumably more cerebral films) had a subversive agenda with Beeba Boys. If this was the case, I’m sorry to say that she failed, as this is most definitely an exercise in escapism, and the film’s exhortation that “we did not make this up” rings laughably false in the face of its contorted plot twists and saccharine ending.

Beeba Boys is showing at the BFI London Film Festival on Thursday 8th & Saturday 10th October. Click here for more information and tickets.

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