2021 Sundance Review: Wild Indian

Director(s): Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.

Writer(s): Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.

Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Kirstyn Anderson, Evan Assante

Synopsis: Two men learn to confront a traumatic secret they share involving the savage murder of a schoolmate.

For me, this is the first official dud of Sundance. Makwa (Michael Greyeyes) is a bad person, and there is no underlying story of a bad person who wants to be better or a bad person who completely becomes what everyone knows he is. The tonal imbalance of this film tries to get the audience to sympathize with a psychotic murderer who gaslights the people around him into thinking he is a good person. He even gaslights himself, until serious tense moments come along and he goes right back into his psychotic tendencies. They try to tell us that he had a bad childhood and was abused in his home, but it doesn’t justify how completely messed up Makwa’s mental state is.

The only person you can root for in this movie is Ted-O, an innocent bystander who gets caught in this web Makwa spins of deceit and turmoil. While Makwa, the actual murderer, is living a good life and hanging out with an egregiously placed Jesse Eisenberg, Ted-O spins out of control and goes to jail multiple times for different occurrences. This is how I know Makwa, or Michael at this point, doesn’t have any sort of remorse for what he has done, because he was able to just move on from his past. I mean he bit the skin off, what I think was, his father’s hand. However, even Ted-O doesn’t get the redemption or satisfaction he needs, as the film still gives everything and the world to Makwa. This is a villain origin story to what would be one of the world’s worst villains, and I just don’t like it.

Speaking on Jesse Eisenberg for a second, and I am sorry if I am spoiling this for anyone, but his cameo was absolutely awful. Not that he did bad, but just that he was there. There was zero need for him to be in this movie, and we never really get any idea as to why he is in the movie. Is he Makwa’s secretary, co-worker, assistant? Is he just some guy in the office. I mean I don’t think we ever really fully get what they even do for a job or what kind of promotion Makwa is going for. It all made no sense, and throwing Jesse Eisenberg in there, someone I like, made it worse because it felt like such an absolute waste for him. He should be off doing Oscar-y type of roles, not being a bit player in something this bad.

Not everything in this film was negative though. The actor who played the older Ted-O gave a really solid performance as a man trying to do right after being subject to Makwa. There is a real pain and want to be a better person after realizing what he has done to get him in prison isn’t who he is. This was someone the audience could sympathize with, and I just wish the whole film had been about his character instead of Makwa. The score was also incredible too but it feels so wasted on this movie. It was haunting and prevalent, but couldn’t keep me invested in the situations going on on the screen.

Final: Wild Indian is an absolute mess of a film. For an hour and a half, we are trapped in the mind of a psychotic murderer that ruins the lives of people around him, and we’re supposed to sympathize with him? It would be different if he decided to go off the rails and fully become what he is, but his constant pretending that he’s “changing” just to go back to the same psychotic ways was just annoying truthfully. There’s a strong tonal imbalance that never quite finds its footing. I don’t know what this film was trying to say or accomplish, but at least the score was excellent, and Ted-O gives a good performance. However, that Jesse Eisenberg cameo was… bad.

My Score: D

2021 Sundance Coverage

2021 Film Rankings

Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Eli Born

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