Following on the hooves of The Men Who Stare at Goats, the Iranian culture-clash dramedy Loose Rope depicts young fellows transfixed by other kinds of livestock.
Part of the High Museum’s 12th annual Iranian Film Today series, Loose Rope gets a lot of mileage from the easy interplay of Mikhail and Asgar (Babak Hamidian, Keramat Roudsaz), two pals who deliver animals in the rural outskirts of Tehran. With Mikhail as a mature, ambitious man of few words and Asgar as an impulsive motormouth, they maintain the dynamic of a classic comedy team. Despite Mikhail’s wish to start a new business, the pair falls behind on payments for their truck, which their creditor threatens to repossess unless they bring him a 450-pound cow.
Before the bovine adventure takes hold, Loose Rope follows another subplot involving sheep. Mikhail and Asgar discover a sneak who digs up recently deceased sheep that he sells to an unscrupulous restaurateur in violation of halal practices (and basic sanitation), which prohibit even sick animals from being served as food. Mikhail establishes himself as a decent fellow by putting an end to the sheep “grave-robbing,” while director Mehrshad Karkhani entices the viewer with quiet action scenes and occasional animal-based sight gags.
In Loose Rope’s latter half, the friends drive an ailing cow to Tehran in an accident-prone road trip replete with roadside wrecks and runaway cattle. If you’ve ever had stressful moments, say, parallel parking, you’ll feel sympathetic anxiety for them. There’s also a country-mouse quality to Mikhail and Asgar’s observations of the big, upwardly mobile city, where cosmopolitan Iranians coo and take cell phone photos of the cow whenever they see her.
Karkhani botches the film’s climax by clumsily introducing a kid in peril and slow-motion effects, but otherwise helms a likeable, humanistic fable. Perhaps the title refers not just to the rope the men use to pull the cow along, but the unseen bonds of friendship and financial necessity. An eat-or-be-eaten economy gives Mikhail just enough rope to hang himself.