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The Indian Runner (1991)



Average Rating: 6.8/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 5,572

My Rating

Movie Info

The Indian Runner, Sean Penn's debut film as director (he also wrote the script, based on the Bruce Springsteen song "Highway Patrolman") is a brooding tale of two brothers -- one peaceful and sedate, the other violent and aggressive -- whose natures, left unchecked since they were children, are set to the boiling point as they head toward middle-age. David Morse is the quiet brother, Joe Roberts, who is a deputy sheriff in a small town. His older brother Frank (Viggo Mortensen) shows up on



Dec 11, 2001


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All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (5) | DVD (1)

Rambling, indulgent and joltingly raw at times, Sean Penn's first outing as a director takes a fair amount of patience to get through but has an integrity that intermittently serves it well.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Penn's first project as writer/director is a film out of time, drenched in an overbearing '60s world-view which veers between the dated and the dopey.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comments (2)
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Loose, rambling and sometimes rudderless as it is, "The Indian Runner" has a fundamental honesty that gives it real substance.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Penn surrounds his brothers with supporting characters who are so well-realized, I'll remember them as long as I remember the leads.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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Penn is trying to get at gritty American ''truths'' about love, brutality, and blood ties. Somehow, though, it's all a bit pat: By now, even these stark themes have the ring of movie conventions.

June 1, 1991 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is slow and pretentious, but it's a feature debut and Sean Penn, a distinguished actor, is good with his cast.

April 29, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Muscular if overwrought drama with great performances.

October 5, 2006

Probes the love/hate relationship between two brothers destined to follow different stars.

July 18, 2003 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice | Comment (1)
Spirituality and Practice

Penn's generosity to his actors is welcome, and Mortensen and Morse make the most of it with substantial performances, but a tighter reign might have livened up a film that at times becomes a little ponderous.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Although the camera always gives precedence to the actor, Penn is not just merely a manipulator of theatrics. He conjures up superb images rivalling anything in modern American moviemaking.

June 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Senses of Cinema
Senses of Cinema

Audience Reviews for The Indian Runner

Sean Penn based his screen play on Bruce Springsteen's song "Highway Patrolman". I don't really see it myself. What is obvious though is that at the relatively young age of 31, Penn understood film and had learned a lot from his heroes, most notably Cassavetes to whom he dedicates this film to along with Hal Ashby. Like a Cassavetes movie, this is an actors film. The pace is slow but the performances are strong, for a directional debut it's pretty amazing. It bombed quite unfairly on release and still hasn't claimed the love its due. Rectify this people!
March 6, 2014

Super Reviewer

Not sure but I guess that I may have been able to appreciate it more had I understood it more.
March 24, 2011

Super Reviewer

I think it would be quite an interesting exercise to see what Sean Penn could have made of his career if he exclusively directed and didn't appear in front of the camera. This film is evidence that it would have been quite the considerable body of work!
February 15, 2010
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Great Penn movie with two amazing actors doing some of their best work... oh yeah, and one God (Bronson) taking a hiatus from ass kicking to give an amazing performance. It's awesome how Penn uses great actors the world has forgotten about (Bronson, Mickey Rourke and Michael O Keefe in The Pledge, Morse at the time) and gets the performances of a lifetime out of them. A great story about 2 brothers with different mindsets and ideals. And Bronson is in it!
January 17, 2008

Super Reviewer

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