VOD film review: Wild Indian
James R | On 29, Oct 2021
Director: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr
Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer
Two men kill someone, cover it up, then find themselves haunted by their secret. While that might sound like a rr plot, the title of Wild Indian makes it clear that the film isn’t your typical psychological thriller.
The men in this taut neo-noir are Makwa (Michael Greyeyes) and Ted-O (Chaske Spencer), two indigenous American friends who killed a classmate when they were young. Fast forward to 2019 and Ted-O is coming out of a stint in prison. He tracks down his old friend, who has renamed himself “Michael” and is pursuing a wealthy career in California – where he plays golf and his colleague (Jesse Eisenberg) acknowledges that he brings a diversity that’s good for the company’s optics.
Into this bubble of assimilation strolls Ted-O, who represents not just a past secret but also the wider past of their Ojibwe heritage. As they clash, the question of how they come to terms with the past becomes increasingly important, and what emerges is a thought-provoking, gripping thriller that tackles big themes of identity and class, anger and guilt and generational trauma – each one grounded in small, pointed details.
Director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr makes his feature debut at the helm, but he does so with a commanding sense of pace and tone, allowing the ambiguous atmosphere to unfold slowly – we don’t meet Michael until after a lengthy chapter exploring his abusive childhood, and Greyeyes is excellent as the imposing adult, who carries the prologue on his shoulders, living out a cycle of violence.
Michael is at once protagonist and antagonist, and Wild Indian allows him to exist in that complexity, at once not defined by his past but inescapably shaped by it. On the surface, this appears to be a low-key, simple tale, but there’s nuance aplenty to be found in its complex shades-of-grey web, grounded in two superb lead turns.