Director: S. Craig Zahler.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins.
Release date: February 19th
The West was won on a tide of Native American blood. Nowhere is this clearer than in Bone Tomahawk. Directed by S. Craig Zahler and starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox, Bone Tomahawk tells the tale of a frontier kidnapping and the rescue mission that follows.
Zahler follows in the style of the great Western auteur Sergio Leone director of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time in the West. Picturesque cinematography, robust sound design and realistic set design are juxtaposed with short bursts of brutal violence and an atmospheric feeling of isolation. The dialogue is done in the classic Western style of passive-aggressive formality where every verbal barb stings as much as an Indian’s arrow. Despite being a first time director, Zahler maintains control of the film and ensures every character is given their moment in the sun.
The characters all fall into the classic tropes of the Western. Kurt Russell plays Sheriff Franklin Hunt, the tough-as-nails lawman. Patrick Wilson plays Arthur O’Dwyer, the hard-done-by hero. Richard Jenkins plays Chicory, the rambling elderly deputy, while Matthew Fox plays John Brooder, the ‘civilised’ Indian hunter. This cast of archetypes could easily fall into self-seriousness or fail to bring anything new to roles that have been played time and again. Instead every actor puts their all into each role with Jenkins’ bringing some much needed comic relief and Russell doing what he’s always done: kick ass.
Bone Tomahawk demands a strong stomach from its viewers. The violence, while coming in short bursts, is always blood-soaked and extreme. Westerns have always been known for their brutal portrayals of frontier life. This film goes above and beyond in terms of brutality; limbs are hacked, skulls are split and stomachs are opened. To die of a gunshot in Bone Tomahawk should be considered a blessing. This violence gives the film’s third act an atmosphere of undeniable horror. The threat of the cannibalistic, clay smeared Indians compounded by the isolation of the sweeping plains and plunging valleys is far worse to endure than any brutal dismemberment.
In a nutshell: A beautiful and horrifying Western that may not be for everyone. If grotesque violence and bristling tension is what you desire then Bone Tomahawk will not disappoint.