The Slaughter Rule

Critics Consensus

A bleak but original indie, The Slaughter Rule benefits from outstanding performances by Ryan Gosling and David Morse.



Total Count: 31


Audience Score

User Ratings: 959
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Movie Info

A teenager at a personal crossroads finds himself questioning the things that have given his life meaning in this independent coming-of-age drama. Roy Chutney (Ryan Gosling) is a high school senior in a small Montana town. Roy doesn't have an especially close relationship with his mother Evangelline (Kelly Lynch), and he hasn't seen his father in years. That doesn't prevent Roy from feeling emotionally devastated when he learns that his father has killed himself, and Roy's self-esteem takes a beating when he's cut from the high school football team shortly afterward. Roy wiles away his time swilling beer with his best friend, Tracy Two Dogs (Eddie Spears), and falling into a romance with Skyla (Clea Duvall), a barmaid at a local tavern, but it seems Roy's short time on the high school gridiron impressed Gideon Ferguson (David Morse), a local character who coaches a semi-pro six-man football team when he isn't delivering newspapers or trying to score a gig singing country songs at nearby honky-tonks. Gid thinks Roy has potential, and asks him to join his team; encouraged by Gid's belief in him, Roy agrees, and he persuades Tracy to tag along. While playing hardscrabble six-man football helps restore Roy's self-confidence, he finds it doesn't answer his questions about his future or his relationship with Skyla, and when Gid's overwhelming interest in Roy begins to lend credence to the rumors that Gid is gay, Roy starts to wonder just why he was asked to join the team. Jay Farrar, founder of the acclaimed alternative country bands Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, composed the film's musical score.


Ryan Gosling
as Roy Chutney
David Morse
as Gideon Ferguson
Eddie Spears
as Tracey Two Dogs
Kelly Lynch
as Evangeline
David Cale
as Studebaker
Amy Adams
as Doreen
Ken White
as Russ Colfax
Noah Watts
as Waylon Walks Along
Geraldine Keams
as Gretchen Two Dogs
Douglas Sebern
as Uncle Peyton
Cody Harvey
as Coach Motlow
Chris Offutt
as Charlie
Volley 'Punk' Reid
as Forfeit Referee
H.A. Smith
as Slick Higgins
Michael Mahony
as Nelson Chutney
Alison Tatlock
as Jolene Chutney
Michael Dunlap
as Football Announcer
Perle Weissman
as Keno Lady
David Wiater
as Male Nurse
Tim Boggs
as Renegade
Nate McClure
as Renegade
Matt Pipinich
as Renegade
Paul Pipinich
as Renegade
Jesse Sidor
as Renegade
Michael Smart
as Renegade
Ben Snipes
as Renegade
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Critic Reviews for The Slaughter Rule

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (8)

  • The movie has a bred-in-the-bone sense of place, and a willingness to take big emotional risks.

    Mar 6, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • Having made his name as a ferocious, self-hating Jewish skinhead in The Believer, 22-year-old Ryan Gosling gives another memorable performance as a lonely, world-hating fatherless quarterback in The Slaughter Rule.

    Feb 16, 2011
  • As compellingly played by Morse, a great actor who gives pic more than it gives him, Gideon comes off as a sensitive soul who knows how risky it can be to appear too sensitive in a small town.

    Feb 16, 2011

    Joe Leydon

    Top Critic
  • The film's powerful meditation on masculinity gets much of its credibility and punch from the two leads, especially Morse, a reliable character actor who sinks his teeth into a role with heavy physical and psychological demands.

    Feb 16, 2011 | Full Review…

    Scott Tobias

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • David Morse, who's spent the last 20 years kicking around network television and building up an resume of impressive movie credits, establishes himself as a truly formidable presence in this powerful first feature by Alex and Andrew Smith.

    Feb 16, 2011 | Full Review…
  • Writer-directors Andrew and Alex Smith go for emotional truth, but what they come up with is often silly.

    Feb 7, 2003 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Slaughter Rule

  • Feb 17, 2011
    Ryan Gosling, Clea Duvall, and David Morse all give great performances. Gosling is, as always, pretty darn outstanding. The locales are often breathtaking. Amy Adams was an unknoun actress at the time of this movie who would have thought! Despite the novelty of its setting, 'The Slaughter Rule' is a fairly conventional coming-of-age tale about a boy who grows into manhood by becoming a member of a ragtag six-man football team. Roy is a teenager trapped in a small Montana town whose life has not been going any too well of late. His father, with whom he had only the most casual of relationships, has been discovered dead on a railroad track, a possible suicide victim. His mother, embittered by their divorce, sleeps around with countless men and has no real inclination to provide her son with any but the most cursory form of maternal affection. On top of all this, Roy has just been rejected for the school's varsity football team because the coach finds him lacking in the kind of 'anger' he feels a player needs to be a success on the gridiron. When Roy is asked by Gid, a somewhat eccentric older man in the town, to come join his six-man football team, the youth only reluctantly acquiesces (six-man football is a near rule-less poor relation to the real game, one ostensibly only played by farm boys). It is at this point that Roy's growth into manhood begins, since it turns out that the enigmatic Gid, who one assumes will be merely a father figure for the affection-starved youth, may be seeking more than just a father/son, athlete/coach relationship with the boy. This latent-homosexual subtext, in fact, is just about the only element that separates 'The Slaughter Rule' from countless other films in this genre. Most everything else about the film feels derivative and stale: the emotionally distant parents, the promiscuous, psychologically detached mother, the abusive stepdad, the sweet girl who wants to flee this hicksville town as fast and as far as a bus ticket can take her. Towards the end, especially, the filmmakers start to pile up the heartbreaks and tragedies, one on top of the other, almost to epic proportions. One wonders how so much can happen in so short a time to so small a group of people. In the almost two hour running time of the film, only the ambiguity of the Roy/Gid relationship arouses any real interest in the viewer. Ryan Gosling is tremendously appealing as the troubled Roy, and David Morse (the father in 'Contact') turns Gid into a nicely sympathetic figure. The starkness of the Montana landscape also provides an appropriate backdrop for the bleak melodrama that is playing itself out in the foreground. Apart from these few quality elements, however, there isn't a whole lot else to commend in 'The Slaughter Rule.' The Slaughter Rule exceeded my expectations as a small film with huge talent, excellent performances, a superb cast and a compelling, tightly directed story. The Smith Brothers shine in their first film. David Morse and Ryan Gosling give nuanced and sensitive performances. The supporting cast is consistently excellent, especially David Cale and Eddie Spears. This is primarily a male story, but Kelly Lynch and Clea Du Vall give great supporting roles and make you want to see more scenes with them. A dreary Montana winter teaches teenager Roy (Ryan Gosling) how to be a man. First, he loses his father, a possible suicide; then he's cut from his high school football team. So when Gid (David Morse), a pariah in his own hometown, suggests that Roy play for his six-man team, Roy has nothing to lose -- or so he thinks. But all too soon, Roy is overwhelmed by his love for an older woman (Clea Duvall) and pressure from the brusque-but-paternal Gid. Roy gets cut from his high school football team just days after his estranged father dies. For him, football is more than a proving ground; it is a promised escape from his lonely rural existence and salvation from the paralyzing passivity that dominates his life. Enter Gideon, 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. A young man finds solace with a young woman, his mother, and a high-school football coach who recruits him to quarterback a six-man team.
    Sergio E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 20, 2009
    Sooooooooooooo boring!!!!
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 29, 2005
    [font=Century Gothic]In "The Slaughter Rule", Roy(Ryan Gosling) is not having the best of weeks - his father is killed, then he is cut from his high school football team, apparently for not being angry enough. A coach of an independent six-man football team, Gideon(David Morse) recruits him to his team. There are local whispers as to whether Gideon's interest in Roy is purely professional...while Roy catches the eye of an attractive waitress, Skyla(Clea Duvall).[/font] [font=Century Gothic]"The Slaughter Rule" is a deliberately paced movie that takes full advantage of its unique setting in rural Montana. The beautiful scenery contrasts wonderfully with the hardscrabble lives of the characters. I thought it did a very realistic job of portraying small town life especially for the teenagers. I wish it had made more of a statement concerning masculinity, though. The performances are fine, especially David Morse who finally gets to play a character he can sink his teeth into.[/font] [font=Century Gothic]Note: On Saturday, I saw "Dallas 362" where Kelly Lynch plays a widowed mother. In "The Slaughter Rule", she plays a character who is officially divorced when her ex-husband is killed. Is this a trend or am I really having one of those weeks?[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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