When the Native American underdog lacrosse team, Crooked Arrows, starts winning toward the end of the film, a prep schooler in the bleachers says, “When did Indians start playing lacrosse?” Well, North American Indians invented lacrosse. According to a line from the movie, “Long ago the Creator gave us the Medicine Game, that we all come together and heal each other.”
“Crooked Arrows” is a warm-hearted, inspiring movie. It may have a ton of Native American cinematic clichés—dream sequences with staccato, spluttering wooden flutes, soaring eagles, and so on—but it works!
Brandon Routh (“Superman”) plays Joe Logan, former star lacrosse player now turned slick businessman, who is looking to upgrade the casino on the reservation he grew up on. This upgrade means opening ancestral land to developers.
As his father (Gil Birmingham) and the rest of the tribal council can easily see, while the young man might have entrepreneurial skills, he’s also shallow and lacks integrity. In order to show he’s mature enough to make such momentous decisions, he’s put to the test. He has to coach the reservation’s directionless, under-inspired, and under-equipped lacrosse team.
The classic storyline ensues—egotistical and noncommittal coach, a team of listless and resentful players, and the odds of winning against vastly superior and well-funded teams too overwhelming to take practice seriously.
The coach then incurs some personal losses, has a dark night of the soul, and thereby taps into his Native American spiritual heritage, thus fundamentally changing his conventional thinking.
A cute can-he-win-her-back romance also starts up with Joe’s former cheerleader girlfriend Julie (Crystal Allen), who has returned with a Ph.D. to teach at the high school.
Then come the get-in-shape and motivational montages, the get-smacked-around first games, the back-to-the-drawing-board sequences, and the first win.
Next up is the rejuvenating of the cultural heritage within the team, and the drawing on of Native American traditions such as the vision quest and the sweat lodge—all of which were originally designed to turn boys into men. A tribal elder speaks of the Creator, and the origins of the game. The whupping of the snooty prep school privileged commences—let the fun begin!
As mentioned, there are a lot of clichés. There’s a fair amount of bad acting, but it’s nevertheless inspiring to see the boys hanging earned warrior hawk feathers off their helmets.
It’s further inspiring to see how not only their morale but their moral standard rises as they take sanctuary in their spiritual heritage, and to compare that with the other team’s culture of taking pride in getting away with cheating.
Best line of the movie: “We often give our enemies the means to our defeat. Look inside yourself to find the origin of your downfall.” Yes, it’s over-clichéd with some bad acting thrown in—but this movie will still move you.