Release Date: February 3rd, 2005 (Landmark Sunshine Cinemas)
One Week Oscar Qualifying Run: December 7th, 2005 (NYC-Landmark Sunshine Cinemas) by Magnolia Pictures.
The Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Aaron Murphy, Paul Rodriguez, Annie White, Chris Willians, Chris Lawford, Patrick Flueger, William Lucking, Bruce Greenwood.
Directed by Roger Donaldson.
BASIC PREMISE: In 1967, Burt Munro (Hopkins) travels from New Zealand to Utah to set a new speed record with his 1920 Indian motorcycle. Based on a true story.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Anthony Hopkins gives one of his best performances as Burt Munro. Very few other actors could have pulled it off, although Paul Newman would be the exception if gave a New Zealand accent. The first act establishes Burt’s health problems, family life, and passion for Indians—the motorcycle, not the people. The script is full of surprising touches of humor like before he leaves New Zealand, he instructs his grandson to urinate on his lemon tree while he’s gone. Once he arrives at the airport in the United States, he gives a lengthy, strange explanation to the immigration officers when asked why he’s visiting. Predictably, one the officers recognizes him from a newspaper as a famous racer and on he goes out of the airport before this film turns into The Terminal. From there, with very little money, he must somehow travel with his Indian to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to fulfill his dream. It’s funny how he adjusts to the way of living in America like as he tries to drive on the right side of the street. Through his adventures, he meets some quirky yet warm strangers—like a transvestite who works the front desk at a motel and a widow (Ladd) who, all-of-a-sudden asks him to sleep in her bed. There are a few surprises, especially once he reaches the Salt Flats, but overall you can easily predict how everything’s going to turn out. However, the race itself is very exciting thanks to the amazing, picturesque cinematography as his motorcycle reaches speeds well over 100. Unfortunately, you don’t get to watch him visit all of the small-town people he promised to visit on his way back, which makes the third act feel too contrived, rushed, and unrealistic.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: No matter what others told him, Burt continued on journey to set a new world record. He clearly had a dream, but, above all, he has tremendous passion for racing—just as he says, he feels more alive while racing than he did throughout his entire lifetime. It’s inspiring and moving to watch him overcome his many different obstacles. If only everyone was as kind, generous, and warm-hearted as the strangers he met along the way.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Predictable with a contrived third act.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1
THE BOTTOM LINE: A very fine performance by Anthony Hopkins! Inspirational and moving! However, the awkwardly contrived third act diminishes much of the realism.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "W" Menu