18 May 2003 | noralee
Football as Male Life in Cold Montana
I don't usually find movies first by their soundtrack, but I first heard of "The Slaughter Rule" because Jay Farrar, of the late Uncle Tupelo, did the score and song selections, including by Vic Chestnutt, the Flatlanders, and the Pernice Brothers. So I was intrigued when I saw it was on Sundance Channel as it hadn't appeared on screens in New York.
The debut jointly written/directed feature of twin brothers Andrew and Alex Smith, the film has a lot of similarity to Tom Cruise's early "All the Right Moves," even down to charismatic young star Ryan Gosling clearly being a movie star hunk of the future.
Set in the brothers' home area of rugged (and very desolate) Montana in the fall, this film takes its working class football frame of athlete seeking father figure and coach conflict much further in examining maleness and the implications of the homo-eroticism of such sports much further.
It bravely (particularly by David Morse in a touchingly agonized performance) goes into the breach of what much discussion of current scandals has avoided, at the confused nexus of pedophilia and sexual identity, particularly for teen-age boys.
There's also a dollop of racial issues via the very realistically portrayed poverty of the Native Americans.
The women are mostly helpless within this overwhelmingly male environment, and their best choice for survival is just to leave, as unromantically satisfying as that is.
This ranks in the gritty tradition of sports movies as a setting to demonstrate social tensions like "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" than more popular fare.