That Game of Chess
By ANDREW BARKER
A Madan Prem Entertainment presentation, in association with Phil Katz Prods., in co-production with Landoo Chun Chun Intl. Produced by Bonnie Klein, Amresh Sinha. Executive producer, Aradhana Chetal.
Directed by Raja Bundela. Screenplay, Viresh M. Sinha, Oge Madewke.
With: Viresh Mohan, Cazzy Golumb, Melanie Malia, Spencer Scott, Alok Nath. Purportedly based on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, “That Game of Chess” is a remarkably straightforward tale of an immigrant’s corruption and redemption in a new land, told with a remarkable dearth of subtlety or style. Though the film, which opened April 3 in Los Angeles, is clearly a personal project with its heart in the right place, that’s just about the only thing that is, with the sketchiness of the story rivaled only by the ineptitude of its execution.
Viresh Mohan plays Rahul, a good-natured Indian engineer who immigrates to Los Angeles after being instructed by his father to avoid “alcohol, meat, drugs and women,” rules he wastes little time breaking. Within days, he’s dating a duplicitous blonde co-worker and taking up residence at the local bar, where “Road House” extras fight, play poker and snort cocaine. Rahul hits rock bottom with dizzying speed, leading to an equally credulity-defying redemption. Pic’s view of Americans as oafish degenerates might be offensive if the depictions of Indian-Americans weren’t even worse, and if the whole enterprise didn’t feel like a study of human behavior curated by someone deeply unfamiliar with the subject.
Camera (color), Armand Gazarian, John O’Shaughnessy; editor, Chris Worland; music, Jason Solowsky; art director, Melissa Gelmo. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, April 3, 2009. English, Hindi dialogue. Running time: 94 MIN.