While the sheer novelty of a feature about lacrosse may be enough to generate some aud curiosity about “A Warrior’s Heart,” this respectably crafted but thoroughly predictable indie rarely deviates from the gameplan followed by countless other dramas about self-absorbed young hotheads who get a shot at redemption on the playing field. Still, fans of the “Twilight” franchise may be drawn by the marquee value of attractive leads Kellan Lutz and Ashley Greene in non-vampiric roles. Limited theatrical run kicked off Dec. 2, but the pic is more likely to score as VOD and homevid fare.
High school lacrosse player Conor Sullivan (Lutz) comes across as an egocentric showboater even before his family moves from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., to Arlington, Va. But after his Marine-officer father (Chris Potter) is killed in Iraq, Conor quickly devolves into something far worse: a sullen rageaholic whose unnecessary roughness on and off the field gets him kicked off the team at his new school and lands him, briefly, in jail.
Enter Sgt. Major Duke Wayne (Adam Beach), a former comrade-in-arms of Conor’s late father. A full-blooded Iroquois, Wayne knows a lot about lacrosse — which, as the pic repeatedly stresses, is a team sport of Native American origin — and a lot more about harsh discipline. He bails the troubled teen out of jail and whisks him off to a Six Nations work camp where at-risk youths undergo tough-love rehabilitation. There, Conor is made to work off his anger by singlehandedly demolishing a cabin with a sledgehammer, and when he tries to go ballistic on Wayne, the Marine easily chokes him into unconsciousness.
All of which serves to make Conor a more focused team player, just in time for his Arlington high-school coach (William Mapother) to use him, reluctantly, in a national championship game. Better still, Conor also gets a chance at romance with Brooklyn (Greene), a beautiful student who just happens to be the coach’s daughter.
Working from a script by Martin Dugard, who appears to have watched and closely studied every pic about high-school sports ever made, helmer Mike Sears keeps “Warrior’s Heart” moving at a reasonably brisk pace. He relies much too heavily on montages set to unremarkable pop tunes and occasionally trips over the many cliches that litter the overly familiar scenario. But his well-cast players (including Gabrielle Anwar, who makes the most of her small role as Conor’s mom) help the pic sustain interest.
Special credit should go to Beach’s effortlessly macho underplaying as the beer-swilling, aphorism-spouting taskmaster who helps Conor be all that he can be. Oddly enough, no one ever remarks on the irony of a Native American being named Duke Wayne, but then again, maybe the viewer is supposed to think other folks would take one look at this badass and know better than to make snarky comments, or even polite queries.
Production values are adequate.