The cockeyed devotion with which writer-director Roger Donaldson dramatizes the story of New Zealand motorcycle legend Burt Munro and his classic 1920 bike in The World’s Fastest Indian is in direct proportion to the cockeyed devotion with which Munro himself pursued his lifetime goal of setting a land-speed record at Bonneville Flats, Utah, in the late 1960s. Munro, who died in 1978 at the age of 79, is depicted in this admiring specialty-act pic as a Crazy Old Guy With a Dream (and, as played by Anthony Hopkins in a full-throttle thespian joyride, as quite the Old Ladies’ Man). Donaldson, who first trailed the real Burt Munro to make the 1971 documentary Offerings to the God of Speed, makes his subject’s every setback and advance an opportunity to applaud relentless Kiwi gumption.
Reunited with the director some 20 years after the two worked together on The Bounty, Hopkins savors every bit of business as his Burt charms everyone in his path: His friends include local toughs back home, and a fetching transvestite motel clerk in L.A. Munro was, apparently, the kind of coot who could knock on a stranger’s door in the desert and end up in bed with a lively gal (Diane Ladd). Crank it, Grandpa.