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First Look Review - WILD INDIAN

A man's buried past returns with the arrival of a childhood friend whose crime he once helped cover up.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr

Starring: Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, Lisa Cromarty, Hilario Garcia III

wild indian poster

In the cinema of our imaginations, we are always the headline star in the ongoing movie of life; playing protagonists who are perhaps flawed, but ultimately the ‘good guy’ in the unfolding narratives of existence. But this self-perpetuating heroism is only possible via essential confabulations, where we convince ourselves of our integrity, and forgive our own trespasses. The sort of moral fabrications which a genuinely terrible misdeed on our parts would make nigh on impossible to pull off. You can’t be the good guy if you’ve killed someone drunk driving, or murdered someone in a bar fight: how would you live with yourself? Honestly, I think I’d rather be deceased myself than deal with the horror of someone’s death being my fault.

wild indian review

With that, my favourite sort of stories are the ones which explore the reoccurrence of repressed guilt, when a character does something utterly awful, covers it up and has to find a way to square it moving forward, all the while with the inescapable past snapping at their heels. 2018’s Calibre is a stomach-churning example of this sort of plot, and writer/director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.’s Wild Indian is a similar proposition, applying the amaranthine ‘return of the repressed’ premise within Ojibwe social contexts, probing the evergreen issues of guilt and responsibility within frameworks of societal cultures and identity.


We begin in the 1980s. Mokwa and Ted-O are young boys who live on a Wisconsin reservation. Mokwa’s home life is miserable, with an abusive father who instils a quiet and simmering rage in the kid. This anger expresses itself when, one day, while out shooting cans with his pal, Mokwa turns the gun on another boy in the woods and kills him dead. Ted-O reluctantly helps Mokwa bury the body and the deed is done.

wild indian review

Years later, the ramifications of their actions have manifested in different ways. Mokwa (Michael Greyeyes) has seemingly erased the person he was, burying him under the ‘Western’ values and ideologies he has fully taken on. His name is now Mike, he’s married Kate Bosworth and he’s a swinging dick at some important office job in the city. Ted-O (Chaske Spencer), however, is in and out of jail, the barely suppressed remorse of what he did as a child weighing him down as much as it gave ‘Mike’ something to run from.


Enough is enough, and Ted-O resolves to catch up with both Mokwa and the truth of their past. The film customarily draws parallels between the characters, and, intriguingly, attempts to link their destinies to their cultural origins. Ted-O is still in contact with his family, while Mike was given extra purpose to leave his vituperative home. Ted-O is a recidivist, while Mike is a professional with a baby on the way. In a furious projection which vocalises this subtext, Ted-O has a right old go at the Ojibwe formerly known as Mokwa, telling him he’s the ‘Fakest fucking Indian I’ve ever seen’.

wild indian review

However, while the concepts which underpin Wild Indian are rich and potentially interesting, the treatment afforded to them is ultimately unsatisfying. As Ted-O duly tracks down the now possibly sociopathic Mike, the film itself seems propelled by a similar sense of ruthless urgency, which it indulges at the expense of its ideas and themes. As if the sad violence of the first scenes is something which the film itself turns away from in revulsion, in the uncomfortable knowledge that such a pointless and cruel act can never truly be reckoned with, whether onscreen or in our inner psyche.

Wild Indian is in US cinemas and on VOD from September 3rd. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.



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