The World's Fastest Indian

          When I first mentioned this film to an acquaintance, he was
  convinced that it had to be a new biopic of 1930s Olympian Jesse
  Owens. Well, if the title was all you heard, that might be a fair
  assumption. I had to explain, though, that while
THE WORLD'S
  FASTEST INDIAN did revolve around a sports theme, it had
  nothing to do with Owens. The "Indian" of the title is, in fact, a
  motorcycle, albeit one that was contemporaneous with Owens.
  Its owner was Burt Munro, an aging New Zealander who harbored
  hopes of setting a land-speed record in the 1960s.

          Munro was a real person and director Roger Donaldson had
  profiled him in a 1971 television documentary entitled
  
OFFERINGS TO THE GOD OF SPEED. Ever since that time,
  Donaldson had harbored a desire to fully explore Munro's
  tale. In the ensuing three decades, the director honed his
  craft, but got mired in Hollywood dreck like
COCKTAIL and
  
DANTE'S PEAK. Returning to New Zealand, Donaldson has
  turned out a pleasantly enjoyable film that serves as a
  showcase for actor Anthony Hopkins as Munro.

          Burt Munro is an eccentric character in his neighborhood,
  where he tinkers away at his beloved 1920 Indian Twin Scout
  motorcycle. Much to his neighbors' consternation, he allows his
  yard to become overgrown and he obviously cares more about
  his bike than he does the ramshackle residence he calls home.
  Yet, there's something appealing about him. Even when he
  takes on a local motorcycle gang with predictably bad results,
  he's a feisty presence. Despite his various setbacks, including
  being told he is suffering from heart disease, Munro sets out
  to achieve his dream of competing at Bonneville. Raising the
  money for the trip by mortgaging his home, Munro sets out for
  the United States.

          Once in America, the film becomes a road movie, with
  Munro encountering a variety of "characters" from a black
  transvestite (Chris Williams) to a lonely woman (Diane Ladd)
  who offers spare parts and a warm bed to a hitchhiking soldier
  (Patrick Flueger). Once he arrives at Bonneville, Munro is
  devastated to learn that he will not be allowed to participate
  in the race for a variety of reasons, including his failure to file a
  proper application and his makeshift work on his motorcycle.
  Only after the intervention of a racing veteran (Christopher
  Lawford) is he allowed to participate in a trial run. Munro is
  then allowed to compete where he hopes to set a world speed
  record.

          The success of the film rests firmly on the shoulders
  of actor Anthony Hopkins who offers one of his best performances
  in years. As an actor Hopkins can be pitch-perfect or
  self-indulgent, depending on the director. Donaldson has reined
  in the actor's tendency toward ham and gotten a nicely
  modulated portrayal. The supporting cast is okay, with no real
  standouts. This is Hopkins' show and he holds center stage.



                  Rating:                B
                  MPAA Rating:       PG-13 for brief language, drug use
                                                     and a sexual reference
                  Running time:      127 mins.
©  2005-2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.