Directed by Steve Rash. Starring Brandon Routh, Gil Birmingham, Chelsea Ricketts, Crystal Allen, Dennis Ambriz, Tom Kemp, Tyler Hill, Michael Hudson, Aaron Printup. (2012, PG-13, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 8, 2012
Crooked Arrows adds something new to the sports-underdog movie: the game of lacrosse. Not only does this film apply the familiar formula to a sport rarely seen in the cinema, Crooked Arrows also places it within the context of cultural history: Lacrosse is a sport that was originated by Native Americans more than a thousand years ago. These aspects provide the film with a novel focus, even though all of its events are entirely predictable.
Former Superman Brandon Routh plays Joe Logan, a mixed-blood Sunaquot who is the manager of the casino built on the tribe’s land in upstate New York. (The Sunaquot is a fictional tribe that supposedly belongs to the Haudenosaunee Nation, among whom lacrosse was developed as a spiritual ritual to please the Creator.) Joe's boss (Kemp) is a crass, white developer who wants to acquire more Sunaquot land to expand the casino, but when Joe presents the proposal to the tribal council the agreement comes with a stipulation: Joe must undergo a spirit quest to prove to the satisfaction of his father (Birmingham) that he is worthy. Joe’s father and sister Nadie (Ricketts) are currently coaching the reservation’s inept lacrosse team, which consistently loses to the better-equipped and -prepared prep school teams. Joe was a high school champion back in the day when he played for Coventry Academy, and his white, high school girlfriend is now a Sunaquot scholar who teaches on the reservation. In addition to learning game mechanics, it’s essential for Joe and his laissez-faire team to discover their cultural roots.
Reebok and various lacrosse associations are on board as sponsors of Crooked Arrows, and it will be to their advantage if the film encourages wider interest in the sport. Crooked Arrows is very reminiscent of The Mighty Ducks franchise, which helped popularize hockey among kids in the States, and was just as predictable. Yet Crooked Arrows has something else going for it. The entire film wants to be the retort to an idle comment uttered by a prep school lacrosse mom in the stands: “When did the Indians start playing lacrosse anyway?”