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The World's Fastest Indian

The World’s Fastest Indian, a New Zealand film, staring Academy award-winner Anthony Hopkins, is based upon the life of Burt Munro, who traveled to Bonneville Salt Flats from Invercargill, the most southern city in New Zealand, to set speed records against all odds with his modified 1920s era Indian Scout motorcycle (civilian model of the motorcycle used by the Army before and during WWII).

Before I had watched this movie, I had never heard of Burt Munro. Then again, I don’t pay much attention to record-breaking speed events. In that world, he’s a legend. I had tivoed the movie, mistakenly thinking it was a remake of the Jim Thorp movie. Jim was American Indian Olympic runner who had his metal taken away, because he had played a little pro ball in his past. I had intended to casually watch The World’s Fastest Indian as I fell asleep, but this movie was so good I stayed up way past my bedtime watching to see of ol’ Burt would pull off his impossible dream.

Hopkins performance was sublime. As a Welshman, he is unable to completely adapt to an Aussie/New Zealand accent. He did, nonetheless, create an entertaining impression of the same. He created a wonderful interpretation of Burt, portraying a quirky mechanical genius, who’s habits irritated his poor neighbors to no end while enduring him to a young boy who watches him put the final touches on the Indian before striking out halfway around the world to lay everything on the line to drive his bike at 200 miles-per-hour (This young Australian or New Zealand actor is really good. The kid has a most charming smile.)

The entire trip is problem filled as Burt faces lack of funds, apprehensive customs officials, indifference of people in the big city of L.A., and equipment problems as his bike is accidentally shipped under tones of grain and his trailer, which he “knocked together” his first night in L.A., falls apart on the road. He soldiers through and discovered when arriving at Bonneville his previous roadblocks were just the beginning of his troubles.

Magnolia Pictures released the movie in 2005. It was a hit in New Zealand. I have no idea why they didn’t release it in the States. I think it would have done very well. Well written, photographed, and acted, with plenty of big names—Braden Frazier even performs an uncredited cameo—I didn’t know it wasn’t a Hollywood film until I researched it for this review. It’s a captivating story.

This movie is a gem, mostly undiscovered in the States. It’s currently playing on Cinemoi. Rated PG-13 for brief language, drug use, and a sexual reference. As soon as I get through writing this review, I’m going to watch it again.

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