The Slaughter Rule (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This was entered in the dramatic competition at Sundance 2002, but failed to connect with a theatrical distribution channel. It has been seen on the Sundance Channel a few times, and is now available on DVD.

It's sort of a sports story, but a very odd one. Ryan Gosling plays a kid who is cut from his high school football time. David Morse recruits him to play roughneck six-on-six football in money games. This is a sport played by guys who just love to play ball. They play in the snow, in windy open fields, where the crowd is sitting in cars on the sidelines. They play for pride, love of the physical contact, a sense of accomplishment, the sense of comradeship, and maybe because they are more than a little crazy.


no real nudity. There is a scene where Kelly Lynch is naked, but it is photographed so that all you can see is the top of her butt-crack.

I could see myself doing this when I was young, but don't think it's going to be one of those stirring stories like Hoosiers. These guys don't always win. Some days they have to struggle mightily to avoid losing early on the so-called "slaughter rule", which says that the game is called if either team falls behind by 45.

Not only that, but Morse, as the coach, turns out to have some very dark secrets.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed 2.35:1. Disappointing transfer of a beautifully photographed movie.

It is a typical indy film in the sense that the directors (brothers) are expressing a unique personal voice that did not appeal to a broad audience. It is very well made. Picturing the bleak, cold, open spaces of Montana, it features some of the most impressive cinematography I've ever seen, and two convincing performances from Ryan Gosling and David Morse. I admired it very much, but I didn't really enjoy watching it. Part of the core of the subject matter is about as far from the mainstream as possible. (How about the cares of the homosexual homeless - obscure enough for you?)

By the way Morse sings some country songs, and he is quite good at it. He's 6'4", bulky and heavily-muscled, maybe 260 pounds, and it's incongruous to hear his sweet, soft, lyrical voice.

The Critics Vote

  • No major reviewers weighed in since it never really appeared theatrically. General USA consensus: two and a half stars. Film Threat  3/5, TV Guide 3/5, 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • It failed to find a distributor. Never reaching more than three screens, it grossed only $9,000. The budget was $500,000


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ - outstanding film in many ways, but way off the beaten path, and virtually unmarketable.

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