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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look66.67%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 11.11%
Sucks: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Indian Runner, The
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by Natasha Theobald

"Am I my brother's keeper?"
4 stars

Sean Penn's writing and directorial debut is a family drama centering on the relationship between two brothers. As in many families, there is one who has it mostly figured out and one who continues to struggle with the basics. There is one who needs bailing out time after time and the one who does the bailing. Featuring amazing performances from a talented cast, this film isn't trying to capture your heart or work for your tears. It simply is, which is pretty refreshing.

The film opens as Joe (David Morse) pursues a suspect in his capacity as a police officer, a job he took when the family farm was bought out from under him. The man being pursued makes the choice to stop his car and make a run for it. When he starts shooting, Joe is forced to return fire and kills him. Minutes later, he is confronted with the tears of the man's mother and the open hatred of his father. This is what life has become.

Joe goes home to his wife (Valeria Golino) and young son to learn that his brother, Frank (Viggo Mortensen), is coming home from Vietnam. The news is good, and their parents (Sandy Dennis and Charles Bronsan) are excited. However, when it comes to Frank, there is always some small, tugging apprehension. Trouble seems to find Frank wherever he goes, and, while Joe can't help but still see him as the little boy he grew up with, he knows that, deep within the man, parts of that little boy are still at play, stirring the pot of whatever potential future his brother may have. Joe doesn't have to worry long, though, as Frank leaves before he barely has arrived.

News of their mother's death coincides with news from Frank's new girlfriend (Patricia Arquette) that he will still be in jail (for hitting her) at the time of the funeral. Upon his release, Joe travels to offer the two a home with his family. A reluctant Frank is brought home by further tragedy, and the remaining family does their best to move on to some semblance of a normal life, the type with small joys and less drama, together.

David Morse has an amazing strength and presence in this role, actually any role, and he brings a disheartened but willing small town sturdiness to Joe. Viggo Mortensen has the more electric role playing Frank, a man who is purely unpredictable. He acts before he thinks and says things that are too hard to hear. The contrast between the two is critical, but the actors also find common threads in small moments, hints that they are connected by time and memory and family bonds. The relationship brings to mind the brother/sister relationship from a later film, You Can Count on Me. I only mention it, because both films have complicated sibling relationships at their center, and both brother characters remind me a bit of my own. The differences between the two, I guess, is that while both brothers can be misguided but well-meaning, this brother, Frank, can be dangerous.

This drama is pretty dark, but I found myself smiling at small moments, little bits of light which creep in, sparkling from a scant surprise or brief interaction. The dark, though, keeps returning in a fairly unrelenting way. This isn't a movie that you sit through happily munching your popcorn and red vines.

Look for Dennis Hopper in a small but important role, as well as a quick scene with Benicio del Toro. Also, listen for a great soundtrack full of rich and well-placed music.

Sometimes you have to gear yourself up to see a drama like this, but the emotional payoff is often worth it. This one doesn't announce itself with bells and whistles. You just have to pay attention and take it all in. Such is the stuff of mundane humanity.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11840&reviewer=317
originally posted: 03/16/05 16:04:30
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User Comments

5/30/13 action movie fan terrible bore 1 stars
5/29/05 Arnie Stunning..I see my brother I can't save 5 stars
3/16/05 Jack Sommersby Well-acted and -textured, but the story is a cliche and the narrative is meandering. 2 stars
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  20-Sep-1991 (R)
  DVD: 11-Jan-2005

  09-Oct-1991 (15)

  20-Nov-1991 (R)

Directed by
  Sean Penn

Written by
  Sean Penn

  David Morse
  Viggo Mortensen
  Valeria Golino
  Patricia Arquette
  Charles Bronson
  Sandy Dennis

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