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SEAN PENN DIRECTS VIGGO MORTENSEN IN 'THE INDIAN RUNNER'

Title: THE INDIAN RUNNER Year: 1993 Rating: ****

Sean Penn wrote and directed THE INDIAN RUNNER about two brothers that couldn't be more different: the central lead is David Morse as Joe Roberts, a humble cop in a small town the movie's set, deliberately outshined by the focal point for both the audience and Joe himself... 

Enter Viggo Mortensen as the scene-stealing ex-con rebel Frank, visually a perfect-looking Marlboro Man with a sleazy antagonistic voice, he's one of those harsh, uncompromising born-losers that hurts everyone and everything, making RUNNER his own character-driven tragedy that, during the Vietnam war, also makes him a jilted returning-veteran: although the time-period aspect seems a bit forced and unnecessary...

David Morse and Charles Bronson in THE INDIAN RUNNER with uniform cop Jordan Rhodes

Other than the direct influence of Bruce Springsteen's Highway Patrolman, Penn was obviously inspired by the 1960's and 1970's independent director renaissance, and his movie would have been present-day if made back then (by, for example, Hal Ashby, who it's dedicated to along with John Cassavetes), providing an overall lived-in, tattered aesthetic backed by Traffic, Janis Joplin, CCR and Jefferson Airplane that's smooth and comfortable even though Frank, with squealing pregnant girlfriend Patricia Arquette, gets more and more cold, distant, and ultimately dangerous...

Basically, like Martin Scorsese's low-budget MEAN STREETS, Penn's INDIAN RUNNER is about how far one person will go to protect someone who doesn't want help... not from retired widower Charles Bronson as the father, sans the mustache and being a genuine character-actor again... and especially not older brother Morse who, in dealing with a family curse, is simply playing to win a losing hand: on his own terms, and for his own peace of mind.

David Morse and Charles Bronson in THE INDIAN RUNNER
David Morse in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Sean Penn's THE INDIAN RUNNER
Viggo Mortensen in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Viggo Mortensen in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Patricia Arquette in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Viggo Mortensen in THE INDIAN RUNNER with David Morse
Viggo Mortensen in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Viggo Mortensen in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Charles Bronson in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Charles Bronson in THE INDIAN RUNNER
Doomed bartender DENNIS HOPPER in THE INDIAN RUNNER
David Morse in THE INDIAN RUNNER

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