This underdog biopic from director Roger Donaldson works because of star Anthony Hopkins's modest, charming turn, and reunites them from The Bounty when the co-star of Proof was more of wicked commandeer.
The World's Fastest Indian is a New Zealand-based production with native Donaldson expanding the scope of his 1971 documentary into a feature-length film that overcomes its schmaltz.
It centers on Burt Munro, a New Zealander who, in his 60's, takes his personally rebuilt 1929 Indian Scout motorcycle to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to reach the highest speed in the world.
This project obviously is a personal one for Donaldson who wrote the screenplay and took a while to get it made. It pays off in the way Hopkins makes Burt an eccentrically likeable sort.
Initially, there seems to be something of a buddy picture brewing as a sweet little boy (Aaron Murphy) proves to be a good listener for a man who lives in Invercargill in a cinderblock hut. He loves fiddling with his old motorcycle and looks hearty even with a ticker that has cause for concern.
From some financial assistance and little savings, Burt's dream is on course as an old liner transports him and his motorbike to Los Angeles. The importance of Donaldson's support of Hopkins comes through in Burt's optimism and open-heartedness that becomes contagious to those he makes contact with.
Burt has a peculiar chuckle that accents some of the dialogue that grows on the viewer, in a way like Hopkins's performance itself. It contrasts well to the deceased, eloquent father in Proof that elicited sharp work from Gwyneth Paltrow. He's not the typical old fellow as seen in many Hollywood comedies and the laid back persona carries much wit with it.
Donaldson's trek sags in the middle portion before the emotional last act where a driver (Chris Lawford) proves instrumental to get him racing (having not already registered). Paul Rodriquez and Diane Ladd provide noticeable brief support as a San Fernando Valley auto salesman and a lively widow. Friendship for Burt also comes in the form of Tina (Chris Williams), a transvestite motel clerk.
The World's Fastest Indian isn't concerned with delving into Burt's background or how his two-wheeler is able to exceed 200 miles per hour. Yet, the wide-screen lensing of David Gribble brings luster to a low-budget feature that will have more to offer to the Bullitt generation than The Fast and the Furious.
|The World's Fastest Indian||B-||B-|