After a stint in Vietnam and a spell in jail, chronic bad boy and classic black sheep Frank Roberts (Viggo Mortensen) is back in Nebraska with a record of wanton violence and a pregnant girlfriend Dorothy (Patricia Arquette). Frank's brother, state sheriff, Joe Roberts (David Morse) is a man committed to life's better values-to his wife (Valeria Golino) and son and to helping Frank become a responsible citizen. United by brother's blood but torn apart by mistrust and miscommunication, Frank and Joe begin a bitter and bloody battle for dominance in the cruel contest of life.
I liked it - but how does Sean Penn get to cast so many big name actors in his early films?
- The Indian Runner review by RP
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You rated this film: 4
Sean Penn is not only an multi Oscar-winning actor but also a talented director. Perhaps his best known film as director is 'Into The Wild' which personally I found disappointing, but I've recently explored some of his earlier directorial efforts including the excellent 'The Pledge' and 'The Crossing Guard' both starring Jack Nicholson.
His first film is 'The Indian Runner', a tale of two brothers Joe (a goody) and Frank Roberts (a baddy). The story is loosely based on a song by Bruce Springsteen ('Highway Patrolman' from the somewhat bleak 1982 album 'Nebraska') with extra padding and characters to flesh out the story.
I liked it. Frank is played by Viggo Mortensen in one of his roles before he became really famous for his role as Aragorn in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy and here he proves rather good in the role of a Vietnam vet who returns home but falls out with not only his brother, a cop, but his parents as well, and is prone to unpredictable violence.
Joe is played by the excellent David Morse (who Sean Penn also cast in 'The Crossing Guard') and other well known actors have small parts, including Dennis Hopper, Charles Bronson and Sandy Dennis. In fact I wonder how Sean Penn got such big name actors to appear in his early films - he must be very well connected/respected.
[Aside: he also seems to be a Springsteen fan - but then he did go out with Bruce's sister Pamela...]
There are inevitably some weak spots. The script is a bit thin, and being based on the characters from a 5 minute song has clearly been stretched out over its sensible length and although there are extra characters and scenes sometimes they feel like a bit too much padding. On the other hand, it remains reasonably true to the song lyrics, including the 'Buick with Ohio plates'.
It's worth 4/5 stars from me.
[Aside: maybe I'm just a little bit generous by being a Springsteen fan myself - I've seen him live more times than I can remember over the last 35+ years.]