Ponies

Nick Sandow’s Ponies can claim the not negligible achievement of bringing one of the more irritatingly objectionable characters in recent cinema to the screen. Introduced climbing out of the East River after some hijinks gone wrong, Croatian immigrant Drazen (John Ventimiglia) proceeds to his local Brooklyn offtrack-betting joint, where over the next hour of screen time, he race baits nearly everyone in the establishment, repeatedly makes cruel remarks about the cashier’s weight, and generally acts like a little shit—all with an ingratiating grin plastered on his face. Adapted for the screen by Michael Batistick from his play, Ponies uses the microcosm that is an outer-borough OTB parlor to make vague comments on the interaction between ethnically diverse people all trying desperately to chase the American dream. But mostly it’s about one obnoxious dude who, while trying to win money to buy his daughter a communion dress, pisses off everyone in sight, especially his Nigerian cab driver friend and a Venezuelan pal. The movie’s stubborn commitment to its lead character’s rottenness is not a little admirable, but as the increasingly silly plot twists unfold in Sandow’s jump-cut-happy hands (anything to make things seem less stagey), it simply asks Drazen to do too much work in covering up its thematic and narrative deficiencies. Andrew Schenker

 
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