peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2020 05 25 TheIndianRunner

The Indian Runner

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Sean Penn's directorial debut, and apparently Viggo Mortensen's break out performance. Here he is in 1991, so young, so James Dean. Everyone is so young: Patty Arquette, a few years before her big effort in Lost Highway. Even Dennis Hopper as a barman looks a decade younger than he did in Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. Del Toro boyishly minces it up in a minor role. Valeria Golino plays the same straight-up European lady as in Rain Main, but this time she might be from Mexico. Only Charles Bronson does look his age.

This is the sort of movie that is no longer made, though that sort of America is still out there, up north, not far from Ohio, perhaps still playing the post Vietnam blues. Everyone smokes. Everyone drinks to excess, every so often. There is a lot of gun play. Thematically it's a meditation on family (incarnated as blood) in schematic fashion: one brother, losing his farm, becomes a cop, while the demobilised brother is reborn bad, both retaining their 16mm black-and-white childhood traits; the essentialism is tedious. The parents go. A baby is (graphically) birthed. There's a murder or two, depending on how you count. Time rolls on. Based on a Springsteen song — "Highway Patrolman" — I don't think I've heard.

Janet Maslin. Roger Ebert.