Bone Tomahawk - Review

132 min  |  Horror, Western 
Review - Rusty Ryan

**Now in theaters**

SynopsisFour men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

ReviewMy movie interests are extremely varied. I am very fond of Westerns with The Searchers being one of my all-time favorites. On the other end of the spectrum lies my love of Cannibal movies. Cannibal Holocaust comes to mind. And just like that, first time Director/Writer S. Craig Zahler,  has crafted a smart, witty, matter-of-fact, and ultimately terrifying “Cannibal Western”.

Don’t let that label fool you. This is no campy parody or exploitation mash-up. This is a legitimate cinematic experience deserving of a serious look. The dialogue is exceptional but delivered in such a casual way, you may miss some of the best lines. Or perhaps, the viewer might be slightly distracted because of the slow-burn sense of dread that builds up to the ending you are expecting and quite possibly dreading. I would not say it ventures fully into the Horror arena but it comes very, very close.

Kurt Russell is Franklin Hunt, a grizzled small town Sheriff who leads a very diverse and dysfunctional group of men on a rescue mission. Indians have abducted the town doctor (Lili Simmons), a Deputy (Evan Jonigkeit), and a Drifter (David Arquette). We are made aware early in the story, that these are not the ordinary Indians we have become familiar with from all those late-night Westerns. More on that later.

The other 3 men that make up the “posse” include: Arthur (Patrick Wilson), the abducted Doctor’s husband, who just happens to be extremely hobbled by a broken leg; Chicory (Richard Jenkins), the constantly chattering “back-up Deputy”; and John Brooder (Matthew Fox) a immaculately dressed Dandy who happens to be an outspoken racist that is very good with a gun. Each actor does a great job letting us into each of the characters’ psyches during the long trip to find the Indians.

This is a good role for Russell. He is completely at home with this role as a Sheriff in his twilight, that has seen it all. But he can’t fight his sense of duty that is taking him away from the security of his town and wife.

As usual, Richard Jenkins is fantastic as the older “Assistant Deputy” that has obviously been protected by the Sheriff who knows his usefulness has it’s limits. He compensates through conversation. This is where the writing really shines. Jenkin’s monologues are interesting and add to many scenes in a prolific way even though they are delivered like random prattle. The musings are just as important to the story as the standard “Tarrantino conversations”, but not so blatantly in your face.

The stand-out in the group is Fox as Brooder. His finely groomed mustached and well-kept outer persona hides a man that has deep scars that effect him and will effect the group. He has competing skills and flaws and he is well aware of them all.

There is a sneaky brilliance to the flow of the film. The opening shot fades into a vicious up-close murder. It’s a way of telling you: “yes, we are going there!”.  Right after that, one of the first actors we see is long time exploitation mainstay Sid Haig. So the foreboding seeds have been planted. Those seeds grow during a huge chunk of the movie dedicated to following the 4 men on their long journey towards the Indian hide out. Many movie goers may find this part tedious but it gives good insight into each character as the sense of fear builds.

The Indians they are seeking are described by a town local as a clan of cave-dwelling, inbred cannibals called “Troglodytes”.  They are scary and very efficient at taking out anyone quickly with their bone tomahawks. They adorn themselves with body modifications that include bones and tusks. They are unemotional killing and eating machines. The final 20 minutes within the cave play out a lot like a great horror movie where the hero must venture into the dark forboding house to rescue those trapped inside.

Bone Tomahawk passes quickly despite the extended “search” through the countryside. The occasional scenes of violence are shocking and very effective. Some of the action is shot a little too quickly to get a grasp of everything that is happening but once the dust settles, you are able to regroup. Many of the scenes and dialogue will stay with you long after the credits roll. It’s a highly effective film but not for everyone. It does contain very graphic scenes of mutilation. Afterall, it is a cannibal film.

4 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

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