Writer/Director:S. Craig Zahler
Movies like “Bone Tomahawk” need to be celebrated. It needs a group of twenty-something film snobs in a basement eating meat lovers pepperoni stuffed crust pizza and drinking Captain Morgan and Brio until their sentences slur into one sloppy incomprehensible word. Then those film snobs need to hand off their copy of “Bone Tomahawk” to a new group of film snobs. Why? Because movies like “Bone Tomahawk” are excruciatingly rare.
“Bone Tomahawk” is a slow burning horror western ensemble…romance…action…thiller…I guess…it’s hard to define. Either way, the opening shot will prime you for what you’re watching. We open on a man getting his throat sawed down to the brain stem. Then one of the throat slitters is mutilated by a clay covered cave dweller. After the violence, we slow down a bit to meet our cast in a near by town. There’s the dapper loner that’s slick with a gun, Brooder (Mathew Fox), the injured yet stoic cowboy, O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), the fumbling yet incredibly supportive back-up deputy, Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and the gritty yet charismatic lawman, Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell). They’re all incredibly distinct in their rolls and each compliments the others character traits.
Anyway, one of the lone robbers from the opening (David Arquette) barrels into town and is immediately arrested. While Sheriff Hunt is figuring things out, the cave dwellers abduct two men and O’Dwyer’s wife. Gathering some information from a local native american, Brooder, Hunt, O’Dwyer and Chicory head off to face the cannibalistic troglodytes.
The majority of this film takes place on their journey. On their way we get banter, moral ambiguity, issues with horses, and thieves. It’s all for not as we learn each of their motivations and incentives. Then cave dwelling cannibals show up and the film takes a hard right turn into hyper-violence. Seriously, it’s like NC-17 levels of gore and mutilation.
There are going to be a few things that separate “Bone Tomahawk” from other films (and not just the violence). Not only are the principle actors pretty phenomenal but they’re also accompanied by Sid Haig, Lili Simmons, Kathryn Morris, and David Arquette. It’s a pretty wacky collection of talented actors and they all perform the material exceedingly well. Kurt Russell is always fantastic with a moustache and Richard Jenkins is so far removed from what I’m used to he was damn near unrecognizable. Rhythmically, this movie almost feels like a stage play. There’s a plethora of witty dialog and prolonged arguments that I feel like would have been edited down in a more standard approach.
– Wow, this sounds pretty amazing!
- It’s actually just pretty good.
– But you just had a wordy paragraph about how avant-garde it was?
- Well, I didn’t say they pulled it off.
– Ugh, okay, get on with your negative paragraph.
- …fine! I will!
Okay, just because I respect the film’s tenacity doesn’t mean it’s pardoned from some poor decisions. Coming in at just over two hours, the film seems to retread ground (literally) that serves no purpose to story or character. I think there’s a cut in their somewhere that would substantially improve it without tampering with its charm or ingenuity. The other thing that hindered my joy is its visual language. It did little than cover the events withourt depth or substance. The photography was devoid style. It’s not terrible and I know this film had a tight schedule, but I would have liked to see an attempt at some daring visuals.
So, when it’s all said and done, why should this movie be passed around by drunken film snobs? Because it’s a cool fucking cinematic experiment that deserves some attention. You’ll see nothing else like “Bone Tomahawk” and it’s pretty entertaining. It has it’s lulls here and there, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, it does anything but lull. It fucking hacks at your gooey head goggles with a filed down jaw bone of a horse. What other movie’s going to do that?
Extra Hacked Off Bits:
- Was Kurt Russel growing his beard for “Hateful 8” during this?
- I wonder if Richard Jenkins’ character bought that music stand.
- S. Craig Zahler’s script “Asylum Blackout” is pretty damn good. Check that out movie if you get the chance. It’s also hyper-violent.