|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
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.
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.