Breakaway: Toronto Review
Canadian director Robert Lieberman and his Sikh star and writer Vinay Vimani team up for the first ever Sikhs-on-skates ice hockey comedy.
The grin starts the minute you hear the concept behind Breakaway. Sikh-Canadians take up ice hockey in a cross-cultural comedy — the two cultures being Bollywood and Canada’s favorite sport. Sikhs on Skates! Unfortunately, that grin doesn’t last long. The opportunities were rife to have fun with Bollywood formulas and sports movies. Alas, director Robert Lieberman and his star and screenwriter, Vinay Vimani, ice the puck: This is little more than a tired remake of Bend It Like Beckham, even to the point of having veteran Indian actor Anapam Kher play the very same role — that of the tradition-minded Sikh father who refuses to allow his offspring play a white man’s game.
Too bad because many things go in the film’s favor, especially Vimani, who displays all the right moves on and off the ice. He’s a good-looking guy with considerable acting and athletic skill. Indeed all the cast performs well in both areas and even Rob Lowesigns aboard as the Sikh team’s coach, evoking memories of his own hockey movie, Youngblood.
A couple of music numbers do stand out. There is a Bollywood “item” number fairly early but you don’t ever see these things done on skates. At the end credits, rapper Ludicris, who plays himself in the movie, leads cast members in a rap-Bollywood number.
Both of these hint at the kind of original, “fusion” movie that might have worked. Instead the filmmakers go for the easy-to-market-to Indian diaspora market. Consequently, little crossover is likely other than here in parts of Canada and perhaps London.
So by the numbers: The Sikhs can’t play worth a damn until Lowe somehow molds them into warriors on skates. Vimani’s character falls for a white girl (Camilla Belle), the coach’s sister. When Vimani’s dad does find out his son disobeyed his orders, he throws him out of the family home. Finally, it all comes down to a championship match where the Speedy Singhs — that’s the team’s name — fight the mildly racist and aptly named Hammerheads.
The movie keeps developing points of interest — such as the warfare between the hero and his sister’s fiancé (Russell Peters) or the recruitment of a bullying Sikh from the rough-and-tumble sport of kabadito act as an enforcer on the ice — only the fumble these away through benign neglect.
Tech credits are smooth given the budgetary restraints although the hockey scenes lack any pizzas.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production Companies: Firsttake Entertainment
Cast: Vinay Virmani, Russell Peters, Anapam Kher, Gurpreet Singh, Ghuggi Sakina, Jaffrey Noureen Dewulf, Rob Lowe, Camilla Belle
Director: Robert Lieberman.
Screenwriter: Vinay Virmani.
Producer: Ajay Virmani, Frank Siracusa, Don Carmody.
Executive producers: Akshay Kumar, Andre Rouleau, Clayton Peters, Russell Peters.
Director of photography: Steve Danyluk.
Production designer: Philip Barker.
Music: Paul Inston, Sandeep Chowta.
Costume designer: Debra Hanson.
Editor: Susan Shipton.
No rating, 100 minutes.