The Indian Runner (1991)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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 Joe's doorsteps, after a recent run-in with the police. Frank tells Joe that he is coming back home to stay and that he has given up his criminal life. His wife Maria (Valeria Golino) is skeptical, but Joe tells her that he is prepared to help Frank get his life back together. Frank has almost convinced himself that his future holds real promise and he's ready to start a new life with his pregnant girlfriend Dorothy (Patricia Arquette). But, once again, Frank's violent temper explodes, and everyone's plans for Frank's future crumble into rubble
Rating:
R
Genre:
Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
MGM

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Cast

David Morse
as Joe Roberts
Viggo Mortensen
as Frank Roberts
Valeria Golino
as Maria Roberts
Charles Bronson
as Mr. Roberts
Sandy Dennis
as Mrs. Roberts
Dennis Hopper
as Caesar
Jordan Rhodes
as Randall
Enzo Rossi
as Raffael
Harry Crews
as Mr. Baker
Eileen Ryan
as Mrs. Baker
Trevor Endicott
as Joe (age 12)
Brandon Fleck
as Frank (age 7)
Kathy Jensen
as Lady at Carwash
Jim Devny
as 1st Deputy
Annie Pearson
as Fat Woman
James J. Luxa
as Randall's Partner
Adam Nelson
as Cellmate
Eddie Katz
as Guy on Commode
Kenny Stabler
as Indian Runner
Don Shanks
as Young Indian Runner
Neal Stark
as Circus Midget
Elaine Schoonover
as Bearded Lady
Phil Gould
as Man at Del Mar
Chuck Ulmer
as Frank's Boss
Joe Martin
as Dorothy's Father
Helen Halmes
as Dorothy's Mother
Jimmy Intveld
as Kid on Highway
Jim Deveny
as 1st Deputy
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Critic Reviews for The Indian Runner

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (5)

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.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Variety
Top 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.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Penn surrounds his brothers with supporting characters who are so well-realized, I'll remember them as long as I remember the leads.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | May 31, 1991
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | April 29, 2011
EmanuelLevy.Com

Audience Reviews for The Indian Runner

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

familiar stranger
familiar stranger

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!

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

½

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!

Christopher  Brown
Christopher Brown

Super Reviewer

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