Anytime you’re able to make a movie about a subject matter that somehow has never been seen before, you know you have something special. In the case of Crooked Arrows you have that in spades.
Lacrosse is a sport that, although very popular in other parts of the world, is only now finally starting to catch on in the U.S. In much the same way that soccer ignited stateside about twenty years ago lacrosse is finally having its moment and is currently considered to be the fastest growing sport in the country. Still, there hadn’t been any films made about it until now.
At the same time we’re learning that the sport itself actually comes from Native Americans who originated it hundreds of years ago. So filmmakers Steve Rash, Todd Baird and Brad Riddell are in all sorts of uncharted territory as they bring this ‘underdog team’ sports movie to life and shine a modern day light on an often overlooked culture.
Brandon Routh, (who, in my opinion, is still the best person alive to play Superman) both stars and exec produces this small indie film. Something that I hadn’t realized prior to seeing the movie was that Brandon does actually have a Native American heritage. Although not prominent, his Kickapoo background does explain how and why he fits into this genre so seamlessly.
Brandon plays Joe Logan, a very Americanized member of a Native American tribe in Syracuse New York. While his devote father (Gil Birmingham) and younger sister (Chelsea Ricketts) remained on the reservation and worked to maintain their centuries old traditions, Joe left and opened a casino. Now, an opportunity to expand his business has arisen and the only way to receive the approval he needs from the elder council of the reservation is to reconnect with his roots and hopefully rediscover who he is.
It’s decided that the best way for him to accomplish this is to take over as coach of their flailing lacrosse team; a group that make the ‘bad news bears’ look skilled and organized. A former star lacrosse player himself, Joe begrudgingly agrees and with that a very familiar plot and pace is set into motion.
Make no mistake Crooked Arrows is a by the book sports movie. Even though they are breaking new ground with the sport itself everything else plays out exactly as we’ve seen before in films like Miracle or Varsity Blues. This is not a bad thing though because honestly, you cannot improve upon how these stories are told.
There is a formula to follow for a reason – because it works. If you hit the beats you’re supposed to and infuse your characters with enough heart to engender sympathy from the audience, by the end of the movie we will all be rooting for them to win the big game! (Which,
of course, we know they will)
Even though I didn’t find myself entirely drawn in by the characters and the setting initially, by the end I had goose-bumps and was engaged by all of the right moments.
There was certainly room for improvement in the story telling and frankly the acting as well; it did feel a bit like a movie of the week on the Hallmark Channel but, it is what it is. I didn’t fault it for its saccharin approach to the subject matter or the blatantly obvious character development choices that were made.
I would have appreciated at least some variations on theme or characters but because this is literally the first movie of its kind it needed to follow the rules as closely as possible. The next lacrosse movie will have the luxury of changing things up and making it edgier or darker. But by being the first you have a responsibility to create the baseline upon which everything that comes after it can grow from.
So was I a little bored? Yes. The same way when you go back and watch other movies that were the first of their kinds you can be irritated by the lack of ‘something new.’ But hey, that’s just what’s necessary the first time out of the gate.
I think Crooked Arrows did a fine job of presenting a sport that we had never seen featured in a film before and of representing a culture that we have barely begun to examine in modern times.
Don’t expect to be blown away by this film, but do expect to learn a few things and most importantly be cheering for this underdog team by the end!