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Directed by S. Craig Zahler (Debut as Director)
Written by S. Craig Zahler (The Incident)
Cinematography Benji Bakshi (Holidays, Big Ass Spider!)
Music by Jeff Herriott(It’s Better to Live Life), S. Craig Zahler
Produced by Jack Heller (Dark Was the Night, Enter Nowhere, Dallas Sonnier (Some Kind of Hate, Condemned)
Starring Kurt Russell (Tombstone, The Hateful Eight, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring, The Founder), Matthew Fox (World War Z, We Are Marshall), Richard Jenkins (Fun with Dick and Jane, The Visitor, Jack Reacher), Lili Simmons (Fat Kid Rules the World, Dirty Lies), David Arquette (Scream, Eight Legged Freaks), Sid Haig (Jackie Brown, Kill Bill: Volume 2), Evan Jonigkeit (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot)
Purchase Bone Tomahawk [Blu-ray] via Amazon.
Bright Hope is a small, quiet, and friendly town whose residents keep to themselves. Like a small, local church, the citizens of Bright Hope know one another along with each other’s history and dark secrets. Very little trouble comes to the small town, and Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell), aims to keep it that way. Aided by Deputy Nick (Jonigkeit) and backup deputy Chicory (Jenkins), Sheriff Hunt runs a fair, but tight ship when enforcing the law. This is on display when an ominous drifter named Purvis (Arquette) decides to pay Bright Hope a visit.
Chicory spots Purvis burying some items outside of town before he enters, and knows that something doesn’t feel right about the drifter. He reports to the sheriff, and they inquire Purvis about his name and intentions. He comes up with a name “Buddy”, and said he was there to meet a friend. Franklin smells horse manure, and puts a bullet in the man’s leg when he decides to make a dash for it. That bullet will change the entire course of the characters’ fortunes.
Samantha O’Dwyer (Simmons) is brought into the jail to perform surgery on the leg while Hunt and Chicory return to their homes, leaving Nick in charge. Samantha’s husband Arthur (Wilson) who injured his leg while working on their roof, remains at the O’Dwyer’s home to rest and recover. The next morning however, his wife’s side of the bed is empty, and he has cause for concern. All of the residents of the jail have been abducted during the night, and horrible plans have been made for each of them by their captors.
The above introduction into the story doesn’t give near enough detail for the characters nor their motives. With a running time of 132 minutes, I thought the movie might move slowly at times like a typical western, but Bone Tomahawk had plenty of drama and suspense to hold my attention. Refreshingly, the dialogue was well done, and gave some much-needed comedic relief. Chicory was easily the most entertaining character who couldn’t keep his pie hole shut, but was loyal to his sheriff to a fault. He didn’t let his title “Backup Deputy” stop him from taking his job seriously, nor did he fail to interject his opinion into a discussion. The best moments in the film I found were when Franklin had to reel in Chicory from getting himself into trouble with John Brooder (Fox), a ruthless and cunning man whose talents were incredibly useful for such a rescue mission.
Along with the dialogue, the characters themselves were interesting with some having a dark past. Brooder had the darkest past of them all, having killed numerous American Indians, including women and children. I’ll not divulge as to why he held such contempt for Indians as the movie will disclose his reasoning, but the inclusion of his character into the film added variety, vanity, and eventually valor. Arthur’s role isn’t exactly clear until near the film’s end when things are set into motion during the escape attempt. His leg isn’t healing properly due to travelling via horseback and foot, and it’s on the brink of contracting gangrene. His will and determination will be taken to the limit in order for him to see his beloved wife again.
Being a huge fan of Westerns and more specifically Tombstone, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch the movie because it had Kurt Russell on the cover. His performance of Wyatt Earp was on point as he played the calm, cool, and collected brother in the Earp clan. Russell has almost always turned in good performances in his films, and Bone Tomahawk is no exception. I mentioned his role as Wyatt Earp since there are some similarities between his performances of Earp and Franklin. Add roughly 20 years of age and law experience to Wyatt Earp, and you’ll get Sheriff Franklin. He’s a logical thinker, displays a cool head in a tough situation, and cares deeply for his wife and friends.
Although the dialogue and character development was strong, there wasn’t much of a score. Personally, I feel that a captivating movie soundtrack is vital to propel a movie, and Bone Tomahawk comes up lacking. To the movie’s credit, this is really the only glaring issue I had with it, because the overall feel of the movie was rather gloomy and desperate. As a result of the film’s slower and gloomier pace, a compelling soundtrack wasn’t important.
Being a simple story set in the west, Bone Tomahawk didn’t have much in the way of special effects or choreography, simply because it wasn’t necessary. The makeup jobs for blood and violence; however, were excellent. It’s been a while since I’ve cringed during a scene in a movie, but there were some horrific, unforgettable images that made me do just that. Visuals that you would expect from a deep space horror – not a Western film.
Having watched the film, I was impressed with how it held my attention despite having a simple story. Not every movie has to be a blockbuster hit for me to enjoy, and despite not hearing much fanfare about this film, I still rather enjoyed it and would recommend it to a friend – provided that friend has a strong stomach.
I’m going to give Bone Tomahawk a 77%.
P.S.: I spoke of some cringing scenes in the movie, and I wasn’t kidding. There’s a part when a man gets prepped to be eaten by savages, and not much is left for imagination, so I wouldn’t let my kid watch this part of the film. That’s just my two cents…
Thanks for this review. I’ve been wondering what this one is like…in a way I’ve been nervous as it “looked” like it might be one of those that just uses Kurt Russell to attract viewers but then, there are these little westerns that aren’t too bad. But…hmmm, you’ve convinced me that I should watch it myself. There are way too few westerns these days.
PS: Tombstone was/is brilliant, isn’t it? Have you seen Once Upon a Time in the West? Oh boy is that excellent.
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I went in thinking the movie would revolve around Russell, but it doesn’t. With the likes of Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins, there was plenty of on camera talent to go around. My calling it a western might be too generic a label – maybe a western horror would be more fitting. And yes, Tombstone is an awesome film to this day. I’ve heard rumors that Kurt Russell in fact directed Tombstone and used George P. Cosmatos as a ghost director since Russell didn’t want his name listed as director, although Cosmatos is given credit. It wasn’t until Cosmatos’ death that Russell disclosed that information. Anyway, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a movie with more memorable one liners and performances like that of Russell’s portrayal of Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday.
Let’s see…Once Upon a Time in the West had Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda, I believe. I remember a good number of intense, eye-locking scenes between the characters before they drew pistols. It’s been along time since I’ve seen it, so I think it’s high time I revisit that classic.
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