Written by: Wayne C Rogers
Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler, is what I consider to be a slow burn to a very dramatic ending with intense violence and bloodshed. In some ways this reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven, though with a different storyline, a different cast, a first-time director, and a really small budget. If this film had had a larger budget and had been directed by Clint, I can almost guarantee that it would be up for all kinds of awards, including an Oscar.
Some viewers, because of the film’s slow beginning, aren’t going to like the movie. That’s okay with me. I loved it, and how the film took the time to introduce the characters with their strengths and weaknesses. It also helped that the posse was led by Kurt Russell (aka Wyatt Earp). He somehow managed to keep the film in balance between over-acting and comedy elements. Richard Jenkins (Deputy Chicory) brings in the humor with his wit and comedic tales. In fact, Jenkins nearly steals the movie right out from under the feet of everybody else.
This is the story of a few citizens of Bright Hope being kidnapped by cannibalistic savages that dwell in the mountainous caves about five days from the small town. One of the people kidnapped is the beautiful Dr. O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons). Her husband is determined to get her back alive with or without the help of the town. Kurt Russell plays Sheriff Franklin Hunt, who gathers four men (not nearly enough for a posse) to go after the Indians and their captives on a rescue mission. Joining the posse are Deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), and gunslinger and Indian killer, John Brooder (Edward Fox).
As the posse goes after the Indians, you begin to learn about the crippled Arthur O’Dwyer and his determination to save his wife. Though you hate the character of John Brooder at first, you come to appreciate his knowledge of killers and the West, and to understand what happened in his past to make him the way he is. Deputy Chicory, who had to fight to get the Sheriff to let him come along, offers the comedic relief for the movie’s intense moments, giving the audience his insights into what’s happening with his funny one-liners and also the tale of the flea circus that he once saw.
Now the Indians, or Troglodytes, are fearful savages out of your worst nightmare. They’re huge and tall, and eagerly fight to the death. You don’t want to be one of their prisoners because these Indians are cannibals and have unique, but violent ways of killing their captives and later eating them. I have to assume that they intend to use the lovely doctor for breeding purposes.
When the posse finally confronts the Troglodytes, the battle that ensues is not what you expect; nor, is the ending. This is an in-your-face kill or be killed with no bars held. What happens will literally take your breath away in horrific shock.
Bone Tomahawk never showed in the theater I frequent. So, I had to wait for the DVD to come out in order to see the movie. There are certainly things that viewers and critics might not like about the film. There’s very little music in the background, which I believe is due to the low budget. The movie is a long one with most of the action at the end. The ending is not what a viewer would expect. And, the cutting and editing of the film is clearly by a first-time director.
Now, given all of that, I still loved the movie. This was a film that was made from the passion of its director and cast and crew. Nobody made any money off of this. Still, this is type of film to eventually become a cult classic. I certainly enjoyed the actors in each role and thought they did a magnificent job in bringing their characters to life. All of them played a vital role in the movie. Though Kurt Russell is the star and does a tremendous job of playing the low keyed, man-of-few-words hero, all of the other actors certainly brought their A-List performances to the making of this film. The director clearly did an excellent job when you consider the fact that there wasn’t much of a budget for him to work with.
This was definitely a Western film in the biggest sense of the term. Word of mouth will soon spread about this excellent, low budget movie, and people will be buying the DVD or seeing it on Netflix. Keep in mind that some will not like it, but those that do will rave about it to others. Bone Tomahawk is going to be one of those films that develop a life of its own on DVD much like Ed Harris’ Appaloosa has and John Carpenter’s The Thing. This movie is not for the squeamish. Make no mistake about that. The ending will stay with you long after the film has ended.
Oh, and the DVD has nearly an hour of Behind-the-Scenes stuff on the making of the movie, along with questions and answers from the cast and crew.
For me, this is the best type of picture to see…one that makes you ponder and think and question.