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With: Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, Lisa Cromarty, Hilario Garcia III
Written by: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
Directed by: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 09/03/2021

Wild Indian (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Native Stung

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.'s feature debut may leave viewers feeling a little displaced by its disquieting turn of events, but the movie's dedication to the Way Things Are is both powerful and lasting.

Ojibwe teen Makwa (Phoenix Wilson) is abused at home and bullied at school. While hanging around with his best friend Ted-O (Julian Gopal) in the woods, and playing with Ted-O's father's gun, Makwa shoots and kills a fellow student, whom he perceives as a romantic rival. Ted-O, afraid of the repercussions, helps Makwa bury the body and keep the secret.

Years later, Makwa has moved away from the reservation, taken the name "Michael" (Michael Greyeyes), and married a blonde woman, Greta (Kate Bosworth). He's become callous and slick, obsessed with money and power. Meanwhile, Ted-O (Chaske Spencer) has just been released from jail, his face covered in tattoos. What will happen when Ted-O decides he can't keep the secret any longer?

Wild Indian sets itself up as a movie-movie by challenging our assumptions about how the two boys in the 1980s sequence will turn out; we expect it will turn out like all those movies about one brother that becomes a cop and the other brother that becomes a criminal. But writer/director Corbine, who comes from a Ojibwe background himself, surprises with the results.

The choice allows for viewers to imagine tons of unspoken backstory. Could Ted-O have been so shattered and disillusioned by the events of that day that he just gave up? Is Makwa/Michael's transformation into a California mover-and-shaker all an attempt to run from his past?

At the two-thirds mark, things take an even more drastic turn, and it will feel unfair. But if we resist, we miss the point of Wild Indian. The point could be to embrace the idea that, yes, things are sometimes unfair. Though it ultimately has some debut-feature drawbacks, it's still a potent story of identity and perception that is worth seeing.

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