Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 17 News List

Fast times in Invercargill

Anthony Hopkins turns in another stellar performance as an eccentric Kiwi who refuses to live out his life quietly

By Michael Costello  /  STAFF REPORTER

Retirement for Burt Munro was a racy affair.


The Chinese name of this movie translates roughly as "Mr. Supersonic" (超速先生), but if you show up expecting something akin to Rob Cohen's The Fast and Furious, you'll be pleasantly surprised. The World's Fastest Indian is far more like its English title: enigmatic and charming.

It tells the tale of Burt Munro, an eccentric pensioner living in Invercargill, New Zealand, who sleeps in his garage and pees on his lemon tree when he wakes up ("It's good fertilizer — don't waste anything"). Much to the chagrin of his neighbors, he spends most of every day tinkering with his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle — hence the movie's name.

Despite his penchant for early-morning noise-making (or perhaps because of it), much of the neighborhood has chipped in to raise money to send Burt and his motorcycle to the US where he hopes to attend Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Burt pays for his passage in part by serving as the cook on a small ship, and the quiet way in which he wins the crew of young ruffians over is a prelude to what is to come as he charms a catalog of 1960s Americans (including a black transvestite, an immigrant car salesman and an elderly Native American) en route to Utah.

Just before he reaches his final destination, Burt picks up a young flyboy who tells him that he's responsible for dumping Agent Orange over the jungles in Vietnam. Munro doesn't make much of this information — how could he? — and it's not clear what this aside is doing in the movie, other than providing a timeframe. Perhaps — like the policeman who insists that Burt move his car despite the old man's protestations that he is recovering from a heart attack — this is just an acknowledgement that not everything in 1960s America was picture-perfect.

Film Notes:

The World's Fastest IndianDirected by: Roger DonaldsonStarring: Anthony Hopkins, Iain Rea, Tessa Mitchell, Aaron Murphy, Tim Shadbolt, Annie Whittle, Greg Johnson, Antony Starr, Kate Sullivan, Craig Hall, Jim Bowman, Alison Bruce, Phoebe Falconer, Charles Pierard, Barry RyanRunning Time: 127 minutesTaiwan Release: Today

Either way, Burt is not to be sidetracked and neither historical anecdotes nor reality checks can prevent him from moving relentlessly toward his goal: "to get the Indian up to Bonneville and see how fast she can really go."

Will the Scout live up to its billing in the movie's title? Well of course but, as Burt's girlfriend reminds him, that doesn't matter very much as this is not really a film about land speed records. Instead, it's a movie about a stubborn old bastard who sometimes spelled Invercargill with one "l" to save ink but also went on to do something truly remarkable. And as such, it's easily worth the price of admission.

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