Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.
October 23, 2015
S. Craig Zahler
S. Craig Zahler
Patrick Wilson as Arthur O'Dwyer
Kurt Russell as Sheriff Franklin Hunt
Matthew Fox as John Brooder
Richard Jenkins as Chicory
Bone Tomahawk fits right into the mold of the western. It’s even extremely formulaic… up until the final 30 minutes of the film, when the tension, terror and blood and guts get a very noticeable boost in intensity. It should be noted that that boost all but eliminates any irks of the predictable nature of the film. Ultimately it’s the slow burn effect that could very well turn viewers off, though the truth is it’s an extremely well-crafted film that takes plenty of time to nurture character development and outline the picture’s players for the exact kind of men they are. We’re also treated to a thorough scrutiny of the conflict through both direct fact and subtle suggestion.
Technically speaking the picture is excellent. The set pieces and set locations look authentic to the period. It truly is the set pieces themselves that are chiefly impressive, although some of the scenic shots we’re treated to are very magnetic; it’s a fine film to just gaze at for long stretches. But the production as a whole calls for – and receives – an awful lot more than gazing. There a lot of really, really right things happening in this picture. If you’re not in a rush to get to chaos, chances are you’ll have no difficulties in picking up on the feature’s intricacies. If you can respect a veteran performer’s understanding that he’s no longer the single front man, but rather an equal member of a group, you’ll also love the film, because the top billing is loaded with excellent actors, and none fight for that limelight. They share it in equal measures and they never attempt to step on any toes. It’s a fine sight to behold.
The story, as the very straight-forward synopsis would lead you to believe, is elementary (again, it’s not the story we’re in for so much as the execution from the crew behind the cameras and the crew in front of the cameras; let’s not forget the overall look of the film, either.) Four men head out into desolate lands in search of a few locals who have been kidnapped by Indians. These guys anticipate something of a typical rescue scenario, failing to realize the true depravity of the tribe they’re pursuing. These aren’t just savage Indians, they’re absolute monstrosities who’d much rather chomp on your neck than debate an exchange. Unforgiving feels to soft a description. These beasts are something else altogether. Needless to say, the plan doesn’t go exactly as expected. The question that lingers is can anyone survive what is no doubt a horrifying encounter, captive or rescuer?
Expect some tame special effects, for the most part. There just aren’t many opportunities for flashy gags in the first 90 minutes of the film. But when those openings do present themselves, we get gorgeous, convincing work from an inspired group of special effects practitioners. There’s a very jarring sequence in the film’s final moments that will absolutely command your respect, and those moments can be rare in any film, let alone a horror film. Hats off to the SFX gang.
As for the performances themselves, oh boy! There are so many awesome genre familiars affixed to the project that you know you’re going to get something stunning. Of course, Kurt Russell is a major player in the film, and he impresses on an eye-opening level. There’s no hamming it up, there’s no big one-liners, he’s just a regular man looking to uphold the law. His performance screams career maturity and strong refinement. It’s a standout film for the legendary co-pilot of John Carpenter. Matthew Fox (who also appears in another top-notch recently release, Extinction) is pitch-perfect as the arrogant man who’s certain he’ll not only succeed in his mission, but shine far brighter than anyone else in the group. And then you’ve got Patrick Wilson, who plays a desperate man who has a deeper connection to the frightening task at hand. Wilson is a winner through and through. He hasn’t let down in the past, and he doesn’t in this case, either. And finally, rounding out our group of heroes is Richard Jenkins, who looks just about unrecognizable as Chicory. And honestly, he’s Richard-fucking-Jenkins, I don’t need to continue dishing out praise for performers who have proven themselves brilliant. But… he’s brilliant!
There just aren’t many areas to nitpick here. Bone Tomahawk is exactly the horror western we all wanted the moment we learned of Kurt Russell’s involvement in this kind of a sub-genre film. It needed to be special. It needed to be fierce. It needed to be engaging. It needed to be aesthetically pleasing. And it was all of those things. Sometimes slower films lose viewers – our attention spans are pathetic these days – but Bone Tomahawk isn’t likely to lose anyone. We become quite invested in these characters, and as the trouble edges closer, we begin salivating over a potentially explosive climax. There’s no let down here. Bone tomahawk is a superb piece of artwork.