Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Indian Runner (1991)

This week’s pick is 1991’s The Indian Runner, directed by Sean Penn (directorial debut) and starring Viggo Mortensen and David Morse as brothers who could not be more dissimilar.


The Indian Runner is the tragic tale of two brothers – Joe (Morse), the one who stays on the straight and narrow, a man of the law and Frank (Mortensen), a troubled, restless soul who constantly finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Frank drifts in and out of everyone’s life without much explanation – he just is. This aimless drifting includes a stint in Vietnam (the film is set in the 1960s) and a little later on, serving some time in the slammer. Upon release from prison, he returns home after a double tragedy – the death of their mother and their father’s subsequent suicide.

In spite of his best efforts to get his life together, including sticking around for the impending birth of his daughter and landing a steady job, Frank manages to finds himself again at odds with the law; this provides a continued source of conflict between him and Joe.


Please be forewarned, this film is a downer that does not let up. That said, as a first time feature it holds together well enough that I think the emotional ride you find yourself on while watching it is well worth it. I am not sure about its video availability but if you have HD cable television, it airs on the MGMHD.

The supporting cast of the film includes Charles Bronson, Patricia Arquette, Sandy Dennis (in her final screen role) and Dennis Hopper (Benicio Del Toro is in it too)!

Fun fact: The film’s screenplay (written by Penn) is based on a Bruce Springsteen song (“The Highway Patrolman”).

Be sure to check out other overlooked/forgotten films by visiting Todd Mason’s blog.


  1. Oh my, just this one picture alone with sexy young Viggo is enough to entice me. Yeah, I’m quite shallow, ahah.
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  2. Hi, iluv and company:

    *Pausing a moment to allow the ladies to catch their breath(s).*

    Viggo has tremendous potential to be one of this generation’s premiere Tough Guys. Also as a romantic lead. Very Bogart.

    While David Morse never ceases to amaze in role after role.

    Great choice for an Overlooked Film, iluv!

    • *** Le sigh ***

      On a serious note, several years ago one of my favorite film critics, Mark Kermode mentioned that he felt Mortensen could be his generation’s DeNiro. Folks flipped their respective wigs in response to his proclamation. Maybe a bit hyperbolic – I do not think it is THAT far off. One cannot deny that Viggo has that rarified quality of moving in and out of various roles.

      I have another review of a film he more recently starred in – a small Argentinian piece. Trying to bang this one out before the weekend.

    • Oh yeah and I really like David Morse.

  3. Wow, a hidden gem. Viggo, one of the underrated best at it. I may check this out!
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