Screened as part of NZIFF 2002

The Slaughter Rule 2002

Directed by Alex Smith, Andrew Smith

USA In English
117 minutes CinemaScope

Directors, Screenplay


Michael Robinson
Gregory O’Connor


Eric Edwards


Brent White


Jay Farrar


Ryan Gosling
David Morse
Clea Duvall
David Cale


Sundance, New Directors/New Films 2002


There are few settings evoked more vividly in recent movies than the hard little town of Blue Spring, Montana in The Slaughter Rule. In Eric Edwards’ astonishing CinemaScope cinematography (he shot My Own Private Idaho) you can almost see the thinness of the high mountain air and feel the cold dry wind in your blood. Written and directed by twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith, this coming-of-age drama brings a contemporary sensibility to masculine anxieties that the old Westerns left unspoken. (Ryan Adams features on the soundtrack.) A mesmerising young Ryan Gosling plays Roy, emotionally concussed from the twin blows of his father’s death and being dropped from the school football team. Enter Gideon, a man in his forties who runs a renegade six-man-a-side team and has a keen eye for the vitality, intelligence and the suppressed anger in Roy. As Gideon’s erratic behaviour and his jealousy of Roy’s girlfriend make the nature of his patronage increasingly suspect, Wild West homophobia puts the young man to the test. — BG

“The most impressive feature by far in the dramatic competition [at Sundance]… a rich and complicated tale of compassion in a cold climate… Gosling crackles with the economical intensity of a young Tim Roth, while Morse’s portrait of impacted masculinity is a career peak – a remarkably fine-tuned study of a broken man concealing the open sores of regret, defeat, and fear behind a mask of brute willpower.” — Dennis Lim, Village Voice