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The World's Fastest Indian

3

Before you ask, this is not a biopic of some record-breaking sprinter from the subcontinent. Nor is it the tale of a curry house offering exceptional service. No: behind the politically incorrect title of Roger Donaldson's latest lies the gentle, true story of one dogged gipper's dream to set a new land-speed record at an age more suited to using Stannah Stairlifts. Aimed squarely at the Zimmer-frame crowd who lapped up Ladies In Lavender, this inoffensive yarn is remarkably slow-moving given its racy subject. Thanks to Anthony Hopkins' genial performance, though, it's a pleasant, old-fashioned enterprise that warms the cockles with its unashamedly feel-good homage to one man's twilight crusade.

Donaldson first encountered Munro some 35 years ago when he journeyed to the remote outpost of Invercargill, New Zealand's southern-most city, to make a documentary about his unlikely exploits. The Species director has been attempting to dramatise his life ever since, eventually using his own savings to make the project a reality. It's an admirable gesture that mirrors its hero's own incorrigible optimism. But in his determination to tell Munro's story, the writer/director has failed to notice there's really not much to tell.

Yes, the closing scenes of Hopkins tearing across the flatbeds on his ramshackle two-wheeler will have you whooping in your seat. But everything up to this point is just rambling preamble: an extended sea-and-road trip that sees his kooky duffer win over everyone he encounters on his travels. And when we say everyone, we do mean everyone: from the transvestite motel clerk he meets in Los Angeles, to the randy widder (Diane Ladd) who offers him room and bawd in Nevada, to the race officials who agree to bend the rules and let him ride, our protagonist doesn't come across a single person unreceptive to his doddery charm.

The lack of complexity or conflict doesn't damage Donaldson's film. But it does, however, stop it achieving the aching pathos and subtlety of David Lynch's The Straight Story, the movie it would most like to resemble.

Verdict:

A whimsical turn from Sir Tony and a rousing finale help Roger Donaldson's fable overcome its conventional narrative and plodding pacing.

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