Popcorn and Inspiration: ‘Crooked Arrows’: Lacrosse: The Healing Medicine Game

By Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.
October 31, 2021 Updated: October 31, 2021

May 18, 2012 | PG-13 | 1h 45min

When the underdog Native American high school lacrosse team, the titular Crooked Arrows, starts winning toward the end of “Crooked Arrows,” a prep schooler sitting in the bleachers says, “When did Indians start playing lacrosse?”

Native players run through the forest in CROOKED ARROWS
A flashback in history to the Native American origins of lacrosse, the “Medicine Game,” in the sports-drama “Crooked Arrows.” (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

Most Americans know by now that North American natives invented lacrosse. The game became more formalized with written rules in 1867, after which it became a competitive sport in elite prep schools and colleges, primarily in the northeastern United States. A line from the movie states the reason for its invention: “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 little movie. It has, granted, a ton of Native American cinematic clichés, such as dream sequences featuring spluttering, staccato wooden flutes, soaring eagles, and so on, but it works nicely.

Rite of Passage for the Coach

Brandon Routh, one of our former cinematic Supermen, plays Joe Logan, former star lacrosse player now turned slick businessman, who’s 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 fairly 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, and a team of listless and resentful players. The odds of winning against vastly superior and well-funded teams is too overwhelming to take practice seriously.

coach and players in CROOKED ARROWS
It dawns on coach Joe Logan (Brandon Routh) that he’s got his work cut out for him, in the lacrosse movie “Crooked Arrows.” (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

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.

woman in pink shirt in CROOKED ARROWS
Dr. Julie Gifford (Crystal Allen) previously dated coach Joe Logan (Brandon Routh) in the high school they now both work at, in the sports-drama “Crooked Arrows.” (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

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.

two lacrosse teams on field in CROOKED ARROWS
Jimmy Silverfoot (Tyler Hill) plays attack position against an opposing team player, in “Crooked Arrows,” about a Native American high school lacrosse team making it to a prep school league tournament. (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

Rite of Passage for the Kids

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 and smackdowns of the snooty prep school boys commences—let the fun begin.

two lacrosse players in CROOKED ARROWS
Jimmy Silverfoot (Tyler Hill, L) faces off against an opposing player (Matthew Eriksen) in a prep school league tournament. (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

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.

coach and player in CROOKED ARROWS
Player Jimmy Silverfoot (Tyler Hill) and coach Joe Logan (Brandon Routh, R), in the sports-drama “Crooked Arrows.” (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

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.” Maybe the Creator … gave America the Medicine Game, that we all come together and heal each other? Imagine if all our sports had that as an end goal?

“Crooked Arrows” is straight-up popcorn and inspiration for a Saturday night in the home entertainment den!

movie poster for CROOKED ARROWS
Movie poster for the sports-drama “Crooked Arrows.” (Kent Eanes/Peck Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Freestyle Releasing)

‘Crooked Arrows’
Director: Steve Rash
Starring: Brandon Routh, Gil Birmingham, Crystal Allen, Chelsea Ricketts, Dennis Ambriz, Jimmy Silverfoot
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.