Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins star in S. Craig Zahler’s grim, grisly and bleak western, Bone Tomahawk. Having received a lot of rave reviews, this is getting a limited release in theaters and On Demand. Russell, who will be seen in another western (probably even more grisly) this Christmas in Quentin Tarantino’s much anticipated, The Hateful Eight. My guess is the studios did not want people getting confused as to which film was which, so they release this way early.
Bone Tomahawk seems to borrow the plot from Ron Howard’s The Missing (which was really a remake of the classic John Ford western The Searchers). It is pretty simple but it does have a bit of a twist. Cave dwelling cannibalistic Indians kidnap a woman and a deputy from a town called Bright Hope. Russell is Sheriff Hunt and Jenkins is his deputy, named Chicory and they decide to go after the kidnapped. They are accompanied by one of the victim’s husband Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) and the town gunslinger, so to speak, a vain and self absorbed gentleman named John Brooder (Matthew Fox). Almost immediately, the four are out of their league. Their horses are stolen and now they have the same long distance to go, but now, all of foot.
S. Craig Zahler has written and directed Bone Tomahawk and even is given a credit as a co-composer of the score which is very sparse (the score is available from Amazon download and is only nineteen and a half minutes in length) in a film that is 132 minutes long. While he shows promise as a writer and a director, Bone Tomahawk has characters that don’t really progress very much. Where they start at the beginning of the film, is pretty much where they end up and there is never much backround given to these characters so I found it difficult to connect with them. I connected enough just to get me through the film, but that is all. Also, Zahler’s pacing for Bone Tomahawk is rather slow and as a result the film is plodding and dull. Not much really happens until the last thirty minutes or so. As a result, I spent a good portion of the film looking at my watch. I crave character driven films and The Searchers and The Missing both had tons of action, but it was the characters that made those films special. Bone Tomahawk is in the shadows of those great films.
It might be unfair to compare them, and Bone Tomahawk is indeed, its own film. It is well acted, beautifully shot with unflinching despair and the final thirty minutes or so is electrifying and intense. But be warned, this is not for the squeamish. The violence in the conclusion is extremely graphic and not for young children. It might even disgust some adults, so be aware. I especially enjoyed relative newcomer, Lili Simmons as the kidnapped wife of Arthur O’Dwyer, Samantha. She does not have much screen time but she is radiant and has a very sweet and gentle nature about her. She is the spitting image of Erika Christensen, too. A lovely young lady and a real talent, as well.
Bone Tomahawk is not awful, but it is not great either. It is one of those art films that takes itself a little too seriously. So much so, that it bogs down a story that usually works when done correctly, does not utilize its A list cast and generally tried my patience as a film goer. I was psyched for this film, too, which is probably why I was disappointed, but if you know what you are getting into, then this might your cup of tea. All this did was make me want to watch The Searchers and The Missing, all over again.
Bone Tomahawk-**3/4 out of 5
Bone Tomahawk- Rated R for graphic violence and language
Bone Tomahawk- Run Time is 132 minutes
Playing in select cities and On Demand