The Indian Runner (1991)

The Indian Runner (1991)
  • Time: 127 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Sean Penn
  • Cast: David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper


An intensely sad film about two brothers who cannot overcome their opposite perceptions of life. One brother sees and feels bad in everyone and everything, subsequently he is violent, antisocial and unable to appreciate or enjoy the good things which his brother desperately tries to point out to him. Frank understands the atrocities of life as a big picture; Joe does not. Joe is content to enjoy smaller pleasures: children, family, routine. Joe mistakenly believes he can straighten his little brother out and convince him that life is good. Frank is a cursed man. He is cut between his love for his brother and his repulsion at self-indulgent contentment. The result is a painful story of heartbreak, heartache, disappointment, despair, and the tragic side of love.

One comment

  • Sean Penn’s debut as a director and writer isn’t perfect but shows a lot of promise (which was later capitalized with “The Pledge”). The film is a lethargically paced and there are moments when Penn should have been more subtle (especially at the beginning when Joe Roberts shows his distress by vomiting). Fortunately, those minor missteps are compensated for by Penn’s writing. All the characters are multi-layered and sympathetic, if not always likable. Ultimately this is a very touching and honest film. Be warned, its also very sad in moments.

    The acting all around is fantastic. Viggo Mortensen has become a major Hollywood player lately with his roles in the overrated “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but he was at his finest here. Its a shame it took so long for the man to become a star. David Morse and Valeria Golino both turn in very likable performances and Patricia Arquette does good with an oddly under-written part. The biggest surprise is Charles Bronson, best known as an action star in the “Death Wish” films. Its good to be reassured that Bronson is able to act after all. “The Indian Runner” isn’t perfect but is powerful and guaranteed to elicit tears from the audience. (7/10)

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