Deepa Mehta’s new film plays like Tarantino sprinkled with garam masala. Or Scorsese run through a spice grinder. The director of “Water,” “Bollywood/Hollywood” and “Midnight’s Children” adds a gangland twist to her latest film “Beeba Boys.”
Jeet Johar (Randeep Hooda) is the ruthless leader of a gang of second and third generation Indo-Canadian thugs. Known as the Beeba Boys (it ironically means Good Boys, like nicknaming a giant “Tiny”) they are a young, flashy, attention-seeking group who wear bespoke suits, brag about their exploits on television and never back down from a fight as they try and take over Vancouver’s drug and arms trade.
Their flamboyant behaviour doesn’t sit well with the area’s rival old school crime family led by Robbie Grewal (Gulshan Grover). Into this mix comes Nep (Ali Momen), a recent Beeba Boy recruit who may be playing for both sides.
The movie begins with a violent sequence that sets it apart from Mehta’s films. Jeet and the gang set off to even a score, driving flashy cars and joking before getting down to business. There’s gunfire and street violence, certainly not Mehta’s milieu but it soon becomes apparent that thematically “Beeba Boys” follows in the footsteps of the director’s other films in its examination of identity and assimilation.
The film literally starts with a bang, but don’t expect that level of intensity all the way through. Random violence and underworld one-liners abound but the takeaway here is the Mehta’s examination of the South Asian immigrant experience. When Jeet’s alcoholic father (Kulbushan Kharbanda) tells of eking out a living as a cranberry bog worker, one of the few jobs available to him as a new Canadian, he paints a vivid portrait of his experience, describing a life his son rejects.
“Beeba Boys” works better as an examination of culture than as a gangster movie. Hooda is a charismatic and dangerous presence but the movie just doesn’t have the swagger Tarantino and Scorsese bring to their work.