Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
This is a hell of a year for Kurt Russel fans. Not having done a western of any kind since Tombstone, 2015 will see him star in two oaters, this being the first, and the second one being QT’s upcoming ‘Hateful 8’. Bone Tomahawk (a truly great title) is billed as a genre-crossing horror western, although I would say that’s really only applicable to the final act of the film, which to be fair, cranks up the intensity level to eleven as far as the gore and terror are concerned. My wife is a huge fan of sadistic horror flicks like Saw and The Hills Have Eyes etc…. (the kind of stuff I wince at and try to generally avoid) and once this movie hit its crescendo of violence, she even had to tap out and say that it was too much for even her satiated senses. That said, the story is simple enough as Kurt Russel plays a small town badass sheriff who takes along a trio of locals to look for a kidnapped girl. Russel fits into the role like a well-worn glove, and never misses a beat. Richard Jenkins, another of my favorite character actors plays Russel’s deputy in the film, and plays the kind of part here that used to go to guys like Walter Brennan or Gabby Hayes back in the hey-day of western glory. The majority of this movie takes place on the move, with characters talking on horseback, or at campfires. All the characters are well developed and sympathetic to an extent—even Matthew Fox’s “indian hunter” character who is cast as the token asshole of the movie is well written enough that I came to regard him as an actual person instead of just waiting for him to get an arrow slung through him. Patrick Wilson plays the husband of the kidnapped lady. He joins the ride to rescue her even though he has a broken leg, which of course causes a few interesting twists and turns plot-wise. All in all, Bone Tomahawk was a win for me on every level. The cast was great, the direction was solid (aside from moving a bit slow in the middle parts) and the action was intense. Fans of both the horror and western genre should definitely go give this a watch—provided you aren’t overly squeamish.
Also, if you’re a fan of westerns and lament the fact that there aren’t too many good ones being made anymore—I recommend getting this movie and making it part of a triple-header matinee with other recent westerns–notably The Salvation (2014) and Slow West (2015) both of which were previously reviewed in this series. While mainstream westerns may be a thing of the past aside from rare exceptions, we may be in the midst of a golden period for low budget indy-westerns with great movies like these coming out in such rapid succession.