Film Review “Crooked Arrows”

Starring: Brandon Routh, Gil Birmingham and Chelsea Ricketts
Directed by: Steve Rash
PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 45 mins
Peck Entertainment

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ll admit up front that I’ve never played lacrosse. To be honest, it wasn’t played where I grew up in Florida. I first learned about it when I lived in Baltimore, as it’s a very popular sport in the mid-Atlantic states. I do know that it is a game of skill and speed. And those qualities are perfectly captured in the new and uplifting film “Crooked Arrows.”

Joe Logan (Routh) currently runs the casino that sits on land that has been in his tribe for centuries. Calling himself “Chief Wampum,” he wanders the gaming floor handing out feathers with bonus coupons attached and shooting arrows at a board that also includes such specials as “$5.00 free play!” When the developer that built the casino wants to expand he makes Joe an offer he can’t refuse. If he can convince the tribal elders to cede more land for expansion he will make Joe, and the tribe, very wealthy. But in order to succeed Joe must also do something for his people.

Presented with the approval and cooperation of the Onondaga Nation, “Crooked Arrows” is a history lesson in the game of lacrosse, which was invented centuries ago by Native Americans. Referred to often as both “the creator’s game” and “the medicine game,” lacrosse is both an athletic and spiritual journey. When Joe is informed by the tribal elders that he must also complete a spiritual journey to achieve his goals, he is assigned the task of coaching the tribal schools lacrosse team. We learn that Joe was, at one time, a great player for a rival private school, where he was known as “Logan the Legend.” However he soured on the game and really wants nothing to do with it. However, he accepts the challenge and, assisted by his lacrosse-loving sister Nadie (Ricketts) and guided by the advice of his father (Birmingham) he begins to recapture the love and respect he had both for the game and for his heritage.

The performances here are strong and natural. Routh may very well be the most likeable actor working today. There’s something about his presence on-screen, be it in “Superman Returns” or the romantic “Fling,” that just says “good guy.” Even when he’s fighting against the tribal councils wishes you can’t help but root for him. Ricketts is equally likeable here. As the only member of the team that actually understands the game and its heritage she radiates confidence. And Birmingham brings a quiet dignity to his role as both the tribe’s leader and Joe and Nadie’s dad.

Director Rash, who three decades ago gave us the great bio-pic “The Buddy Holly Story,” has managed to capture both the speed of the game and the smaller off-field moments beautifully. The photography, especially when the film flashes back to images of long ago, is lush and Brian Ralston’s musical score is a perfect accompaniment to the onscreen story.

Click here for our interview with Brandon Routh
Click here for our interview with Chelsea Ricketts

Brandon Routh talks about new film “Crooked Arrows”

Born in Iowa, Brandon Routh is probably best known for his portrayal of the Man of Steel in “Superman Returns.” Though the film made over $400 million it was deemed a “disappointment,” which to me was a slap in the face to the fans that loved the film and Routh. In my review of “Superman Returns” I noted that “Routh certainly has large red boots to fill…and he fills them admirably.”

Since then he has worked steadily, appearing in such films as “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” and “Fling,” which he also co-produced. This week Routh returns to theatres as Native American lacrosse coach Joe Logan in the film “Crooked Arrows.” Routh recently sat down with Media Mikes to talk about “Crooked Arrows,” going behind the camera and how “Superman Returns” still has its benefits:

Mike Smith: What attracted you to “Crooked Arrows”?
Brandon Routh: A couple of things. The fact that it’s about lacrosse, which is a sport I’ve been interested in learning more about. And the story. The script had a lot of passion…a lot of heart…in telling the true heritage of the sport of lacrosse, the Native American people and the sport’s origins.

MS: You’re obviously an athletic guy. Did you play lacrosse growing up?
BR: I didn’t. Growing up in Iowa there wasn’t any lacrosse. (NOTE: I grew up in Florida and we didn’t play lacrosse either. It wasn’t until I moved to Baltimore in the early 1980s did I see the game being played. It’s regionally popular in the mid-Atlantic states and is slowly growing a nationwide following) I grew up playing soccer. I would have loved to have played lacrosse but there wasn’t any to be had. That’s what made this role cool….I got to learn how to play.

MS: As you’re playing a Native American, did you do any special research to bring an authenticity to your character?
BR: I didn’t have to do a lot of research because I had access to Neal Powless, who was the cultural adviser. He’s from the Onondaga Nation as well as a producer on the film. He also was my lacrosse coach! (NOTE: Powless is a former professional lacrosse player and was a three time All-American in college). I was so fortunate to haveaccess to him for any questions I may have had.

MS: You were a co-producer on “Fling,” which was filmed here in Kansas City. Do you have any desire to go back behind the scenes? Either back into producing or even behind the camera as a director?
BR: I used to think I wanted to be a director. I’m not sure if that will happen or not. It would certainly have to be something that I wasn’t acting in. The job of a director is so challenging. You have so many people that you have to please. I think I’m a few years from that. But it is a thought. A thought for down the road.

MS: I want to preface this question by saying that I was 17 when “Superman the Movie” came out. I loved Chris Reeve as an actor. I thought you did a brilliant job in “Superman Returns.” You truly did the character, and Christopher Reeve’s memory, proud.
BR: Thank you.

MS: I preface that because, even though the film made $400 million, it was looked at in some parts of Hollywood as a failure. Do you think that kind of thinking…where a film is first judged by how much money it makes in its opening weekend rather than whether it’s a good film or not…will eventually hurt the chances of smaller films like “Crooked Arrows” even being made?
BR: No. I mean me being in “Crooked Arrows” is only because of “Superman.” And this is a much different kind of film…an independent film. It follows a completely different release schedule…we’re able to do so much more with promoting it. So I don’t see that kind of thinking effecting smaller filmmaking in any way.

MS: What are you working on next?
BR: A pilot I shot just got picked up by CBS. It’s a sitcom called “Partners.” So hopefully I’ll be seeing you on Monday nights in the foreseeable future starting in the fall.

Chelsea Ricketts talks about her role in the film “Crooked Arrows”

If you’ve been a fan of some of television’s most popular shows the past few years then you’ve certainly seen Chelsea Ricketts. From “CSI: Miami” to “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Hot in Cleveland” to the current cult hit “The Killing,” she has built a solid body of work in a short time. This week Chelsea stars in the drama “Crooked Arrows,” the story of a Native American lacrosse team and the challenges they face as they try to win a prep school tournament. Chelsea recently sat down with Media Mikes to talk about the film:

Mike Smith: What drew you to the project?
Chelsea Ricketts: It was really something different to me. One thing I look for is something that is new and adventives. Something I haven’t already seen or heard or read about. “A,” I had never seen a lacrosse film before, so that was interesting to me. And “B,” to have the Native American aspect…to show how Native Americans invented the sport, was really intriguing.

MS: Tell us a little bit about Nadie Logan, the character you play in the film.
CR: She is Joe Logan’s (Brandon Routh) sister. He’s the coach and I’m the assistant coach. I’m actually a player on the team but I later become a coach. She’s a really cool, passionate girl. “Passionate” is definitely the right word to describe her. She absolutely lives and breathes the sport of lacrosse. She loves what she does. But she’s also a really cool, tough girl who can hang with all the guys. But they all still like her and have crushes on her…so she’s kind of awesome! (laughs)

MS: Were you athletic growing up? Did you have to learn to play the game?
CR: I knew what lacrosse was but I didn’t grow up with it. I grew up in Houston, Texas and when I was in school it just wasn’t as big there. Now it’s pretty widely spread all over Texas. I was athletic. I played other sports. But lacrosse was new to me.

MS: You appeared in several episodes of “The Killing” this season. The show has a very
loyal fan base. Were you a fan of the show before you joined it?
CR: I was a huge fan of the show. That wasprobably my favorite thing I’ve ever done. To be such a big fan of the show and then get to create a character on it was like a dream come true. I was so nervous on that set…walking on I was like, “Oh my gosh!” It was just so surreal. It was awesome. Awesome.

MS: What are you working on next?
CR: I have a film coming out in the fall (“Chasing Shakespeare”) with me, Danny Glover and Graham Greene. And I’ve just started working on the ABC-Family show “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”