The Slaughter Rule


Middle 40-60% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2002 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Ryan Gosling, David Morse, Clea Duvall, Kelly Lynch, David Cale, Eddie Spears

Non-Cast Credits

Alex Smith, Andrew Smith, Gavin O'Connor, Jerry McFadden, Michael Robinson, Greg O'Connor, Eric Edwards, Brent White, Jay Farrar, John Johnson


Not in recent years has the transition from boy to man been explored with more grace, poetry, and beauty that in The Slaughter Rule, a debut feature from twin filmmakers Andrew and Alex Smith. But that's where the reference to things gentle ends, for it is the juxtaposition and antithesis of the location�the rugged small town in Montana and the hard-packed earth of the brutal six-man football games�from which this film derives its intensity. From the first Cinemascope panning shot, you can see these are filmmakers who know what they are doing.

Roy (Ryan Gosling) gets cut from his high school football team just days after his estranged father dies. For him, football is more than proving ground. It is a promised escape from his lonely rural existence and salvation from the paralyzing passivity that dominates his life. Enter Gideon (David Morse), a loner living on the roughneck fringe who is looking for "gamers"�kids who scrap hard�to play on his six-man football squad. Roy joins the Renegades, and he and Gideon enter into tenuous friendship that pushes the limits of male bonding.

The perfection of this film is in the performances. Who better than Morse to play Gideon�repression bubbling under a hard exterior, rage just under the skin? Gosling is testosterone-revved teenager on moment, tender young man the next. He's a mass of male contradictions, especially to Skyla (Clea Duvall), a bartender in a local honky-tonk who catches Roy's eye. With its poignant storytelling, stunning cinematography, and intrinsic sense of place, the Slaughter Rule is and extraordinary first film.


John Cooper (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.