Title: Crooked Arrows
Director: Steve Rash
Starring: Brandon Routh (‘Superman Returns’), Gil Birmingham (‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1’) and Crystal Allen (‘Anacondas III’)
Football, baseball and basketball are all popular sports in the United States that unite players and fans alike, but one sport that has been played across America for thousands of years that hasn’t received as much recognition is lacrosse. The new drama ‘Crooked Arrows’ aims to bring lacrosse and Native Americans, neither of which have received tremendous attention in films, to the attention of sports fans and people looking for diversity in movies alike. Despite some common sports film cliches, the movie proves that Native Americans deserve more attention in the sports and film industries.
‘Crooked Arrows’ follows mixed-blood Native American Joe Logan (played by Brandon Routh), who is looking to modernize his reservation’s casino by expanding on the land of his ancestors. In order to be given the land from the tribal council, Joe must prove himself to his traditionalist father Ben (portrayed by Gil Birmingham), who is also the Tribal Chairman. He will only grant his son’s request on the condition that he coaches the high school’s struggling high school lacrosse team, which competes against the better trained players of the Prep School league.
Joe reluctantly accepts his father’s condition in order to save his job. But he soon realizes the challenge will require him to become a true leader, much like he was when he was a star lacrosse player himself in high school. With the help of his sister, Nadie (played by Chelsea Ricketts), who is on the team; his high school girlfriend, Julie Gifford (portrayed by Crystal Allen), who is now a teacher at the school; and his grandmother, Joe helps restore pride to the team.
‘Crooked Arrows’ deserves credit for focusing on the teamwork and plays needed to succeed in lacrosse, as opposed to more mainstream American sports. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of screenwriters Brad Riddell and Todd Baird, the two created a cliched coach who doesn’t initially care about the team, and only sees training the athletes as a means to get what he wants. Joe was a respected player himself in high school, but no longer appreciates the game; he is resentful that his father ordered him to work with the team, just to be given the land for the casino.
But as Joe spends more time with Nadie and her fellow players, he predictably sees the situation as a way to vindicate his own playing mistakes from high school, improve his prospects at the casino and give the tribe pride and the team a reason to feel good about themselves. While the message director Steve Rash included in ‘Crooked Arrows’-the fact that people can change for the better through teamwork and a sense of community-is admirable, Joe’s drastic change in personality at times lacks in emotion and is extremely foreseeable.
‘Crooked Arrows’ does successfully pay tribute to the Native American culture, and draws attention to an ethnic group mostly forgotten in mainstream cinema. The film showcases the fact that Native Americans created the sport of lacrosse, and with enough encouragement and practice, they can be at the top of the game.
Rash made the right decision in having sports coordinator Mark Ellis, who has worked on such films as as ‘Miracle’ and ‘Invincible,’ cast real lacrosse players in ‘Crooked Arrows.’ The actors playing on the Crooked Arrows team not only brought their experience of playing lacrosse to their characters, they brought determination and passion in proving they really are the best in their roles. Even Routh has said that he worked hard to look as legitimate as his younger co-stars.
‘Crooked Arrows’ is a touching tribute to the Native American culture, and the pride they take in having created lacrosse. Hiring Native Americans who actually played the sport in real life helped showcase the hard work the tribes put into playing the game. Unfortunately, the character of Joe and his reluctance to coach the team, and his gradual change in attitude and devotion to the sport, is full of cliches commonly found in many sports films. Rash made an admirable attempt to create a movie showing that everyone loves playing sports, no matter what their ethnicity, but he does little to create unique conflicts or struggles.
Written by: Karen Benardello