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The Slaughter Rule
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Genre:Drama
Year:2002
Rating:NR
Length:1h 56mins
Cast:Alex Smith, Andrew J. Smith, Ryan Gosling, David Morse

A sincere, uncompromising tale of redemption that uses six-man football as a metaphor, The Slaughter Rule transcends its deceptively simple backdrop to become a profoundly moving film experience. It's also a tour de force for two fine actors, relative newcomer Ryan Gosling and accomplished character actor David Morse. Gosling portrays Roy Chutney, a fatherless, disaffected teenager growing up in rural Montana. He is befriended by shambling, bearlike Gid Ferguson (Morse), who coaches a six-man football team when he's not peddling newspapers and performing old tunes in a local honky-tonk. New team member Roy desperately needs a father figure, but maybe it shouldn't be Gid -- who, though already keeping company with a rheumy wreck of a man -- can't keep his eyes off the talented young player. Clea Duvall, an unprepossessing but effective performer heretofore seen in supporting roles, is quite impressive as a bartender who becomes involved with Roy. Sibling filmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith, who wrote and directed The Slaughter Rule, focus their energies on the increasingly uneasy relationship between Roy and Gid, and they use the magnificent but bleak Montana landscape to emphasize their protagonist's sense of isolation. Cinematographer Eric Edwards films deep blue skies, scarlet sunsets, brown fields, and snowy white hills with a painterly eye; his sweeping wide-screen shots, as suggested by the Smiths, evoke the pastoral pleasures of such Terrence Malick movies as Badlands. But this film isn't subservient to the visuals; it's driven by the powerful performances of an extremely able if not star-studded cast. Ed Hulse

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