Director : S. Craig Zahler
Writer : S. Craig Zahler
Bone Tomahawk is a title that gives you fair warning of what is to come, so you can't complain when it does. It's ominous, grotesquely visual and hints towards the barbaric world contained within.
Two townsfolk are abducted by cannibal savages and taken to their lair five days ride away. A rescue party of four men set out to bring them back. Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) leads the party because he feels he has no choice. It's his deputy that has been taken, along with Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simons) who was only out that night to treat a prisoner that he had shot. He tells his wife not to make a big deal of it, even though he knows he is headed to a place of utter savagery. But the price of civilisation is often the sacrifice of good men and he knows his duty.
With Hunt is Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), who won't let the grating of his broken tibia bones stop him from helping to save his wife. He's an ambitious and God-fearing man whose bravery seems to outweigh his wisdom. Rounding out the party is dapper volunteer John Brooder (Matthew Fox) who shows himself to be a man of questionable morals, but while the others may baulk at his methods, they take silent comfort in his certainty. The fourth man of the rescue party is backup deputy sheriff Chicory (Richard Jenkins) who refers to himself as an imbecile on the rare occasion he beats the others to it. He is older and more loquacious than the others, and in a sea of masculine stoicism that comes off as weakness, but over time he reveals his skills and steals every scene he's in.
This posse is no relentless force of nature that rides day and night on untiring horses. As a lawman this time around, Kurt Russell isn't 'walking on water' like he was in Tombstone. In this world he knows that death can come just as easily from a rolled ankle as it can from a bullet. So he paces himself and makes sure to pack a decent lunch before he leaves home.
In the beginning, this feels like a very traditional Western. It burns slowly as the pieces are compiled and they hit the trail. When the road starts to feel long , it's the delightfully written dialoague that keeps you engaged. Despite the dire circumstances the four men bounce off each other and they begin to drift from the straight archetypes they began as. And as civilisation is left further behind them, so to are the constraints of the genre.
The bad guys are something to be seen. Bearing more resemblance to H.G. Wells’ Morlocks than traditional movie Indians, they commit the most horrendous atrocities and are truly terrifying. Unlike its modern Western contemporary, The Hateful Eight, the grotesque violence here serves the story and heightens the tension rather than releases it.
Bone Tomahawk majors as a western but with a minor in horror and comedy, it's most easily classified as a B-movie, but it deserves much more than that. It's a fiercely modern take on a point in time and it has something to say. Samantha O'Dwyer openly accuses her rescuers of being idiots and she may have a point. While the bravery of the men can't be questioned, they lack the flexibility that would increase their chances of success. It’s no suprise that it's the son’s of this generation that will advance into World War One machine guns with little to protect themselves except their intact honour. Perhaps their mothers might have worked out a better plan.
But so it is that the charecter with the biggest brain has the smallest voice, and while the men stay true to their character, Mrs O'Dwyer is the only one that sees through the pretension and speaks the truth. Perhaps that's what civilisation really needs to keep the savages at bay.
A Must See