Did you know, dear reader, that the sport of lacrosse was created by Native Americans? Well, I sure didn’t until I watched the film Crooked Arrows, which is an educational force as much as it is a feel good sports film.
Brandon Routh (of Superman Returns) stars as Joe Logan, a mixed-blood Native American who has strayed away from his culture and makes his money by building casinos on his people’s land. Logan, a former lacrosse jock, has abandoned his roots and in an attempt to get him to connect to his true spirit again, Logan’s father, Ben, the Tribal Chairman (Gil Birmingham) challenges him to rediscover who he truly his before he will grant him access to a parcel of the tribe’s land. The challenge? To coach the local lacrosse team and bring tradition back into the sport of lacrosse.
Lacrosse, which dates back over 1,000 years and was originated by the Haudenosaunee (which includes the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations), is known as the Creator’s game and was not played for points, but honor. The face of lacrosse has been one of preppy, middle-class whites. Very rarely has the sport been known to be played by other cultures. One mother of the opposing team turns to her friend to ask, “When did the Indians start playing lacrosse?”
Directed by Steve Rash, this film has all the familiar clichés of a great sports film and uses them to its advantage. Logan is arrogant, brash and uncaring; his cheerleader ex-girlfriend still holds a smoldering flame for him; the lacrosse team he is charged with bringing to glory loathes him as much as he does them. It’s all there and somehow it works. We’ve seen it all before (think Remember the Titans or Cool Runnings) but don’t mind watching yet another sports movie about an underdog team steadily rising to the top because, well, it’s lacrosse. And everyone loves a winner, especially unexpected winners who honor their ancestors and run down the field with feathers peeking out of their helmets speaking their native language on the field to call plays.
The screenplay, written by Brad Riddell, does a nice job of keeping the dialogue just shy of corny, and it’s loaded with Native American traditions. What can be appreciated about the film is its insistence to accurately portray Native Americans; traditional languages are spoken; the audience is given subtitles, and most of the characters insist that they be called by their tribal names. There were several shots of pow-wow dances, tribal council meetings, and discussions with the elders.
Ten years in the making and financially backed by the Onondaga Nation,Crooked Arrows producers had to make several changes to the script as the tribe did not want to be portrayed in a stereotypical manner. Much of the cast are Native Americans from the Mohawk, Tuscarora and Onondaga Nations; first time actors who manage the steal scenes and play an outstanding game of lacrosse. This is due in part to the filmmakers decision to cast skilled athletes and teach them how to act rather cast actors to portray lacrosse players. The players, Tyler Hill (Silverfoot), Cree Cathers (Chewy), Aaron Printup (Maug), Michael Hudson (Reed), and Orris Edward (Sammy) give us exactly what we’re looking for in a lacrosse game against bigger teams; winners waiting to become champions.
This film is being billed as the first lacrosse movie, and I’m betting that Hollywood is going to jump on the bandwagon and attempt to make several more like it. They surely won’t make one as culturally accurate and fun-filled as this one.
Crooked Arrows opened on May 18th and is playing locally here.
Crooked Arrows is rated PG-13 (parental guidance suggested).
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes.
Directed by Steve Rash; Screenplay by Brad Riddell; Edited by Bart Rachmil and Danny Saphire; Music by Brian Ralston; Production Designer, Carl Sprague; Produced by J. Todd Harris, Adam Leff, and Mitchell Peck.
Crooked Arrow website.