The World's Fastest Indian


Reviewed by: David Stanners

As a title, The World's Fastest Indian could be misleading. Forget American Indians, or natives of the sub-continent for a minute, and focus on a Twenties motorcycle, raced by an ageing eccentric from small town New Zealand. This is the World's Fastest Indian.

Australian writer/director Roger Donaldson, from his own enthusiasm for the subject, has concocted a gem of a picture, outlining the real life journey of Burt Munro, a colourful sixtysomething character from Invercargill, with grandiose plans to ride his motorcycle faster than its rickety components will allow, and in so doing, write his name into the record book.

A big character in a small Sixties town, Burt does everything his own way. Living in an oversized shed of a house with his prized possession, his Indian, he harbours the dream of a trip to the Salt Flats of Bonneville, Utah, a Mecca for thrill seekers attempting to set fresh land speed records in an annual event as big as the World Cup for those in the know. Polishing, grinding and cutting home made add-ons for his unique contraption becomes Burt's daily routine. Interspersed with regular trips to the garden to pee on his lemon tree and the occasional filing down of his toe nails with a revolving wood carver, he is visited by Tom, the young boy next door, who, against his parents' wishes, naturally gravitates to the old man's charms and idiosyncrasies.

Burt lives the bachelor life, but with the gift of the gab is also a hit with the ladies, and it's not long before he gets himself a local lass to take to his birthday bash at the town hall where his friends have done a whip round to aid his plans to conquer the USA.

After settling a few scores and notching up more adventures on home soil, Burt sets sail for the New World. On arrival, his naivety is laid bare. The first thing he asks the cabbie at LA airport is, "Hello, mate, take me to Hollywood, please," "What part?" "I don't know, just Hollywood. I want to meet the stars." And he's serious, too!

Although based on true events, the fictional elements take hold and his journey becomes no end of an entertainment. From transvestites to traffic cops, lonely widows to red necks, he charms them all with his honesty and insatiable appetite for life. Nothing fazes him, least of all his dodgy heart, which he considers merely a blip on a perfect landscape. Even when he makes it to his holy land and is surrounded by younger competitors with state of the art carbon fibre aerodynamic super machines and is told his little Indian is substandard to health and safety requirements, he finds a way round it, albeit with the help of hotshot local star Jim (Christopher Lawford) who cant help but like Burt. In fact, his character and underdog status propels him to the heights of the star attraction and when finally he cranks up his Indian on the Salt Flats, young ladies and local speed freaks are tripping over him for autographs.

There is masses to like in Donaldson's script and direction. A light-hearted and humanistic element shines brightly, with a stellar performance from Anthony Hopkins, who naturally dominates from start to finish. Completely inhabiting his character's traits and quirks, he is tailor made for the role. His well-documented love of driving in open spaces is clear and the result is a genuinely uplifting road movie, with good humour, awe-inspiring landscapes and exciting action sequences. More than anything, it carries the positive weight of a message that clearly states, it's never too late in life.

Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2006
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The World's Fastest Indian packshot
A Sixtysomething New Zealander is determined to set a land speed record across the Salt Flats of Utah on his 1920s motorcycle.
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Director: Roger Donaldson

Writer: Roger Donaldson

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Christopher Lawford, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Rodriguez, Annie Whittle, Saginaw Grant, Aaron Murphy

Year: 2005

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: New Zealand/US


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