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The Indian Runner
The Indian Runner
Actors: David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, Charles Bronson
Director: Sean Penn
Genres: Drama
R     2001     2hr 7min

The story of two completely different brothers and the strained relationship that forms between them after the younger brothers returns from Vietnam. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: R — Release Date: 11-JAN-2005 — Media ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, Charles Bronson
Director: Sean Penn
Creators: Sean Penn, David Hamburger, Don Phillips, Mark Bisgeier, Patricia Morrison, Stephen K. Bannon, Thom Mount
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Family Life
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/11/2001
Original Release Date: 09/20/1991
Theatrical Release Date: 09/20/1991
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 2hr 7min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Sean Penn -- Method Director?
Jeffrey Ellis | Richardson, Texas United States | 10/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I once heard Sean Penn's film referred to as "Method movies," and I can't think of any better description. Though having only released (as of this writing) three films, Penn has created a style that is as distinct and indentifiable as his own idiosyncratic performances as an actor. Penn's films take place in a gray area that is rarely visited by Hollywood films today -- a rather grim place where the action moves slowly and where the images are rarely happy but somehow remain impossible to look away from. These aren't the type of films that make money or draw huge weekend crowds but they are the films that people will still be watching decades from now. The first of these films was the flawed but still compelling Indian Runner, which tells the tragic story of Viggo Mortensen, an unstable vet who returns home and, despite the best efforts of his peace-maker brother David Morse, continues to spin out of control.Obviously, this is not a happy film but it is still surprisingly touching and that's largely because of the cast -- the majority of whom have never been better and for that, I give full credit to director Penn. While its obvious, at times, that he still has a bit to learn about pacing, it is also obvious that Penn knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Mortensen, playing a role that could have easily become a flat villian, is quite simply amazing. Even as it becomes clear that this is not someone you'd feel safe living next to, the viewer still can't help but feel an amazing empathy for this fractured human being. Penn, as director and writer, is actually willing to take the time to allow Mortensen to become a real, flawed human being. David Morse, always underrated, is much more low-key than Mortensen but no less compelling. He makes his love for his brother both believable and real and it adds a truly tragic air to his efforts to protect Mortensen. However, for me, the film's most shocking revelation is Charles Bronson, cast here as Mortensen and Morse's father. After several decades worth of films where Bronson was basically a blank slate, Bronson is a revelation here. As the father, Bronson becomes a tragic, haunting father and -- and here's the shocking part for those of us who have seen the Death Wish films -- is actually believably human and vulnerable. His final emotional scene is heart breaking -- largely because of Bronson's own performance.As I said before, this is a flawed film -- mostly in terms of pace. Sometimes, Penn does seem to be insecure about his directorial and writing choices -- as if he's straining to make sure no one misses the point. But these flaws are honestly just nitpicking. I give this film five stars because it heralded the arrival of Sean Penn as an important director and it featured some of the best acting I have ever seen in my life."
The Indian Runner
Jeremy Landes | Phoenix, AZ United States | 03/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the finest fims of the 1990s, The Indian Runner serves as a powerful reminder of our powerlessness to change the people we love. Though the picture is unblinking in its showcase of human weakness, the film has an overwhelming compassion for the wounded souls it presents. Viggo Mortenson breaks my heart every time I watch his character, Frankie Roberts, in his brother Joe's car--the night after his violent binge. Frankie's final monologue, a drunken, self-righteous ramble about elementary school math class and the tooth fairy (among other things), is extraordinarily strange and comprehensible. Throughout the film, Mortenson dares his brother and his wife to love him, as he spews abuse (and peas) in their faces. Not only do they continue to love this pitiful monster, but we do, too. In a perfect world, Mortenson and David Morse would have shared the Best Actor Oscar in 1991 (Anthony Hopkins can win any year he wants to) and Sean Penn would have won Best Director and Best Screenplay.Jack Nitchze's soundtrack and the late-'60s--early '70s song selections perfectly complement the tone of this masterpiece. Midway through the film, Penn and his editor Jay Cassidy give us a scene that astonishes in its bold craftsmanship and beauty. This scene includes David Morse, Patricia Arquette, Viggo Mortenson, Charles Bronson, and some poor schmoe at his Hawaiian-style birthday party (L.M. Kit Carson, I think)--living out their lives in different parts of the Midwest over the course of one night while a singer croons over the soundtrack. One of them will soon kill himself; another goes on a crime spree; one loses his sportscar; another waits by the phone. This is maverick filmmaking, and it leaves you breathless! The scene is played without dialogue, but you still learn so much about the characters through their facial expressions and reactions.If Sean Penn had never made another movie, he would deserve to be named among the top 10 directors of the '90s for the 127 minutes of no-compromise-storytelling he demonstrates in The Indian Runner. I will never miss another one of his films."
The World in Black and White
M. China | Denver, CO United States | 06/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Although made in 1991, The Indian Runner finally came out on DVD in April of 2003, and I have had to watch it numerous times. It is a fascinating character study of Frank. To Frank, life was not shades of grey, but black and white, and he simply would not bend in order to live in this world. Basically, you watch his downfall through the course of the movie. I could understand Frank's character, though, because he was an innocent. Even though he was capable of mayhem, he was also vulnerable and sympathetic due to his uncompromising approach to life. Viggo Mortensen does his best work here, having given Frank's character the utmost consideration. Sean Penn's poetry of the movie was outstanding, weaving the Indian Runner theme throughout the movie in a variety of ways. Although the movie is 12 years old, it is incredible. For a first directorial job, it is amazing. A belated congratulations to all involved with the film. The only thing I wish it had was more special features. It would have been nice to hear the director's and some characters' takes on their approaches and characterizations."
A precursor to "Mystic River"?
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 08/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Viggo Mortensen is outstanding in this character study of brothers reuniting amidst great troubles in their personal lives. Sean Penn wrote and directed this film, his first effort in that respect, and came away with a solid effort that has all the fingerprints of his Academy Award-winning effort "Mystic River".

Mortensen plays the "bad" brother to "good" brother Don Morse in this slice of life set in rural working class America. The film also stars Charles Bronson, who is cast against type as an aging parent, Sandy Dennis and a very young Benicio Del Toro.

It is an unflinching, honest, truthful, gritty and utterly realistic view of a family that is coming apart and simultaneously being held together by the strong grip of the good brother Morse, who is something of a latter day Bobby Ewing cast against bad brother J.R. Ewing in an unstated Midwest locale about 1968.

This movie can move slowly but is also variably gripping, entertaining, revolting and satisfying. It is emotional and carries great depth in the multilayered view of its characters, all of whom mimic real life people far more than in most movies, where the characters are often idiots acting out IQs of 6.

Not in this film, a first time triumph from writer-director Penn. Based on the type of character Penn has portrayed most of his career, I think there must be something of Penn's upbringing in this real world study of people, their interactions, their wanting to do the right thing while being unable to do so, and their sometimes futile efforts to hold on to the good things in life while all around them in crumbling.

The film ends in typical disarray and with an unsentimental message about people, their place in the world, and optimism. This is a very worthy film for people that want to see realism on the big or little screen.

A caveat: This is adult fare and not for children. Watch out for Mortensen's full frontal nude scene about half way through the flick, where he shows off his splendid 1991 physique."