Crooked Arrows finds surprising depth in its cultural context
Starring Brandon Routh and Gil Birmingham. Rated G.
About a thousand years ago, hundreds of Native lacrosse players would battle for days on a three-kilometre field. The game isn’t quite that tough now, but Crooked Arrows makes it clear: this is one bad-ass sport.
So even if it sticks strictly to a clichéd underdog-team formula as old as The Bad News Bears, the movie has exciting game action in its favour. And aside from too many scenes of circling eagles and elders dishing hokey mysticism, Crooked Arrows finds surprising depth in its cultural context.
Joe Logan (Brandon Routh) has sold out his Native American heritage to make big bucks running the casino on his tribe’s land. His band sends him on a “spirit quest”: he has to coach its lacrosse team, which has been on a losing streak against local prep (read white) schools. The ragtag team resents the coach, then he gains their respect; throw in a game-breaking injury, and you can guess the rest.
It feels a bit amateurish, but dammit if the stupid story doesn’t win you over by the big playoffs, when the team gets out the war paint and fastens feathers to its helmets. In part, it’s because director Steve Rash infuses the film with so much local tribal colour, from back-yard powwows to impromptu smoke lodges. The larger story here is about aboriginal youth reconnecting with their culture in a time of iPhones and flashy gambling emporiums, and that’s as compelling as any sports drama.
Rash’s other trick is casting real Native lacrosse players, from the likable Tyler Hill as the double-braided star Jimmy Silverfoot to Aaron Printup as Maug, the hulking brute who prefers to use a hand-carved stick. The acting? It’s not going to win any golden statues, but the body-crashing on-field action makes you see why this is one of the fastest-growing sports—which will no doubt be helped along by this predictable but winning little flick.
Watch the trailer for Crooked Arrows.