BONE TOMAHAWK (USA/IFI/132mins)
Directed by S. Craig Zahler. Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Evan Jonigkeit, David Arquette, Fred Melamed.
THE PLOT:
It’s a five-day journey in three days when Sheriff Hunt (Russell) leads a posse out of Bright Hope, out to rescue two men and the wife of the bed-ridden Arthur O’Dwyer (Wilson). The three were abducted by mysterious raiders in the middle of the night, and time is of the essence, given that the kidnappers are “something else entirely”, a tribal Indian breed like no other…
THE VERDICT: This is the movie ‘I wish The Hateful 8’ had been. ‘Bone Tomahawk’ has a plot, a purpose, a feckin’ punch.
Not that Zahler is Peckinpah, or Ford, or even Hillcoat, but there’s a welcome sense of menace to ‘Bone Tomahawk’, its B-movie ballsiness offset nicely by deeper, darker rumblings.
And no better man for arthouse-meets-grindhouse shenanigans than Kurt Russell, rightfully taking his place as an elder statesman of cult classics and kitschy old hits that are actually, hey, very, very good.
With a supporting cast that boasts the likes of Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins, you know from the opening credits that this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

Bone Tomahawk
Review by Paul Byrne
4.0Packs a punch
  • filmbuff2011

    Bone Tomahawk joins that rare breed of the horror subgenre – the horror/western mash-up that also featured in the likes of anthology Grim Prairie Tales or possibly even the gory Soldier Blue.

    In the Wild West, cowboy Purvis (David Arquette) disturbs a native burial ground with his partner. His partner is killed by the natives but Purvis escapes. He arrives into town bringing a whole lot of trouble with him. This catches the attention of Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), who promptly shoots him in the foot. Things get worse when Samantha (Lili Simmons), the wife of Arthur (Patrick Wilson) is abducted by the tribe in a reprisal. Arthur isn’t in tip-top condition though – he’s got a sore leg. However, Sheriff Hunt allows him to join the search party that also includes slick Brooder (Matthew Fox) and old-timer/back-up deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins). As they venture out into the desert, they come face-to-face with a tribe of cave-dwelling cannibals – and their own mortality.

    Bone Tomahawk is an atypical western. Its closest cinematic cousin would perhaps be The 13th Warrior, of which it shares some plot similarities. It also makes minimal use of music, so there’s no sweeping Ennio Morricone score here or John Ford-style heroes who win out no matter what. Instead, S. Craig Zahler’s film relies heavily on a mixture of characters, a barren environment and a deadly force to be reckoned with. It helps immensely to have such great actors playing these parts. They clearly relish playing cowboys and, for the second time this year, the great Kurt Russell makes a determined frontier man who does what it takes to both rescue Samantha and survive the ordeal ahead. And it’s some ordeal – this ain’t for the squeamish or the yellow-bellied. There’s some choice gore here, which makes it ideal viewing for horror fans like this one.

    If there’s one complaint, it’s that it’s overlong. There’s a slow midsection as the characters travel through the desert trying to find the tribe. Some fat could be trimmed here without affecting the overall narrative. The edit just need some tightening to make it more punchy. When it delivers in the final act though, it’s certainly impressive. The tribe are genuinely creepy and you do worry for the characters – not whether they’ll be eaten, but how. Bone Tomahawk has some flaws, but horror fans and the curious should certainly seek it out. ***