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Review - Bone Tomahawk

By midlandsmovies, Feb 14 2016 10:58AM

Bone Tomahawk (2016) Dir. S. Craig Zahler


This debut Western from writer-director Zahler pitches historical cowboys against feral natives in a drama-horror set in the wild west. Opening with an unlawful duo being set upon after disturbing an ancient burial ground, one escapes to a frontier town called Bright Hope and is immediately arrested and thrown in jail by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell).


With injuries occurred during his apprehension the local doctor (Lili Simmons as Samantha O’Dwyer) is sent for, leaving her bed-bound husband (Patrick Wilson as Arthur O’Dwyer) who is similarly in pain from a broken leg. During the night however they disappear with the only evidence left behind being an intricately designed arrow. A friendly local native American is called upon and identifies it as being from a brutal tribe of cavern-dwelling troglodytes.


A crew is quickly assembled and thus begins a chase for their loved ones and brutal vengeance in the wastelands of the surrounding desert. Russell maintains the rough country Sheriff he embodied in The Hateful Eight (gruff beard and all) and Wilson’s agonising husband attempts to overcome his lame leg to recover his loved one.


Split into three main parts (the town, the wilderness, the caves) the narrative is straightforward but the actors have fun with their broad characters which ensures that believability is mixed with a good old fashioned retribution tale. The cinematography echoes sepia tinged photos and the lighting is consistently low and naturally lit to evoke the reality of the era.


Discussions on firearms, ponies and travel provisions are punctuated with scenes of brutal violence in the untamed wilds. Wilson’s injury threatens to slow their journey down increasing the film’s focus on both physical and emotional pain and distress.


I enjoyed the crusty nature of the protagonists with the Deputy Sheriff Chicory (an unrecognisably old but brilliant Richard Jenkins) providing much needed light-heartedness to the wicked deeds surrounding them. Getting closer to the natives keeps the audience interest up as the group’s forthright dialogue turns to nasty, yet satisfying, action sequences involving fist fights, bows and revolvers.


Bone Tomahawk therefore ends up being a furious film with pockets of revolting cruelness and the dust-covered savages are a fascinating twist on the “cowboy and indian” stories of the past. Kurt’s curt tongue and hoarse voice may be almost identical to his recent outing with Tarantino but whilst the horse-based passage through the wild is a Hollywood chestnut, the film’s formula mixes in new aspects to the genre. A bloody smattering of torture and mutilation gives the movie a bleak twist that will also satisfy the horror crowd and its no-frills narrative was a thrilling ride along.


7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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