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Review: Conspiracy theories fail to engage in ‘The Gandhi Murder’

Review: Conspiracy theories fail to engage in ‘The Gandhi Murder’
Jesus Sans in the movie "The Gandhi Murder." (Rising Star Entertainment)

“The Gandhi Murder,” which posits a crisscross of events that may have led to the 1948 assassination of Indian activist and peace proponent Mahatma Gandhi (71 years ago, Wednesday), works hard to portray how a deadly conspiracy allegedly unfolded against a nation divided by religion, but never fully engages us in its complex tale.

Directors Karim Traïdia and Pankaj Sehgal, working off an often clunky script by Ralitza Ivanova, have crafted an overly self-serious picture that takes a long time to take shape — and take off. Its timely messages become muted amid a kaleidoscope of settings, characters, brusque action scenes, blunt speechifying and wan romance.

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Set in the fraught aftermath of India’s independence from Britain and the partition of British India into India and Pakistan, the film follows the conflicted — and failed — efforts of three disparate Indian police officers (Stephen Lang, Luke Pasqualino and the late Om Puri) to act upon intel suggesting that Hindu militants were planning to kill Gandhi (Jesus Sans), a committed Hindu, for his tolerance of Muslims. There’s plenty here that could have built to a super-tense climax — but that doesn’t quite happen.

Comparisons to Abraham Lincoln and America’s Civil War — and, in passing, the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — have merit but, as wedged in here, feel heavy-handed. Why the American Lang plays a Kashmiri and the British Italian Pasqualino and the Spanish Sans were cast as Indians is a whole other issue.

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‘The Gandhi Murder’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

Playing: Starts Wednesday in limited release

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