Wild Indian: LFF2021 Review

Year: 2021

Runtime: 90 minutes

Writer/Director: Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr

Actors: Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer

By Caz Armstrong

This tense psychological thriller deals with the impact of guilt and remorse many years after a tragic event. A stone-cold central performance by Michael Greyeyes and a mythical quality lifts this film to another level.

Native American teenager Makwa is bullied by his father and doing poorly in school. Needing to lash out, he takes a gun into the woods and shoots a schoolmate dead in cold blood. Fellow schoolmate Ted-O witnesses the crime and, under threat, helps cover it up. 

Years later the pair have dealt with events in very different ways and their lives have taken very different paths. They must finally come to a reckoning with their guilt, and each other. 

“Wild Indian”

As a British person without much exposure to Native American culture it was particularly interesting to see a story from that perspective. The theme of identity particularly came through. Makwa changed his name to go by the anglicised ‘Michael’ (Michael Greyeyes) as an adult but kept his long hair. Now working in the corporate world, Michael also seemed to use his Native American heritage to make white colleagues feel uncomfortable. His heritage therefore became like a Swiss army tool, either hidden or utilised as required. 

Michael is shrewd, cold-hearted, manipulative and very much disconnected from others. With a touch of “American Psycho”(2000), he also lives a very affluent lifestyle and has expensive taste. He’s drawn to violence but does seem to understand its impact. 

Michael Greyeyes’s performance is a lesson in control. He’s cold and heartless without hamming it up like a cartoon villain. He gives us just enough so that we are terrified of what he might be capable of, but without giving us too many clues as to his state of mind. 

Ted-O (Chaske Spencer) on the other hand was dealt the same cards in life but was less able to talk his way out. He became a hardened man but wracked with guilt and the need to put things right. 

The contrast focuses our minds on the different ways that people deal with shocking situations, and how they impact lives for years to come. 

“Wild Indian”

This is a film that doesn’t present clear answers but asks us to make connections ourselves and to contemplate history’s impact. The abuse and maginalisation of the main characters invites us to consider the same being done to Native American people over centuries. Michael’s corporate job, golfing abilities, blonde wife and affluent lifestyle helps him to pass in white society but underneath he’s something quite different. He’s got excellent lawyers and a ruthless streak that means he’ll always get ahead.

In contrast, Ted-O is less able to assimilate into a society in which he is marginalised, and despite being less violent and more good-hearted he is still held back by largely unseen oppressive forces. 

There are mystical qualities to this psychological Cain-vs-Abel thriller that make it quite contemplative. With performances that will give you goosebumps and twists you won’t see coming, “Wild Indian”(2021) is one to watch.

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