Sunday, February 14, 2016
Movie Review: Bone Tomahawk
I was afraid Bone Tomahawk might fall into this category given the notoriety a particularly violent scene within the movie had gotten. While this one scene involving the violent, manual, nude, dismemberment of a male character is extremely graphic and crosses the line of what I will normally watch, the rest of the film is smart, funny and thoughtful enough to make up for it.
A mashup of both horror and western genres the film contains some excellent actors--Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson and others who do a fantastic job of creating nuanced characters, each distinctly different from one another with their own motives, charms and perceptions. Russell in particular is great here. Always a fantastic anti-hero, he is the moral compass of this film, leading his small band of men in the attempt to track down the troglodyte Indians living in the "Valley of the Starving Men" and rescue their kidnapped friends.
The horror comes into play with the capture of one character's wife and another's employee by cannibal Indians. While the film tries to separate these cannibals from "true" Indians, its pretty clear that these are meant to only a different branch of the same tree. I'm honestly a bit shocked that the film hasn't received a great deal more politically correct criticism given all the "good" characters are white and all but one, male, while the cannibal Indians are dirty, primitive, dark skinned, unable to use language, etc. In fact, one major characteristic of them is that we never really see their faces, making them truly faceless, persona-less, evil.
The real violence doesn't take place until the film's third and final act (the first two acts staying firmly in the Western genre with all its tropes present and accounted for, with the last transitioning into the realm of Horror) and if you didn't know it was coming it would be a major shock as first hour and 45 of the film did not contain anything worse than your average Tarantino film (to whom Zahler and his dialogue is drawing comparisons) and in fact is far LESS violent than most of those. While hard to watch, at least the 30 seconds or so of horrific bloodletting carried the proper emotional weight, was properly placed in the film and wasn't overly focused on for the sake trying to sicken the audience. The violence was simply part of the story--not indulged in, heightened, glamorized, or pushed at the viewer or wallowed in by the director like I feel even something a film like "Straw Dogs" does.
The director here, S. Craig Zahler is one to watch. He comes out of a literary background having crafted a number of very well received Western and Sci-Fi novels, is a NYU film school grad and has a number of film scripts that have been snatched up for production by both Martin Scorsese's company and by Leonardo DiCaprio. One would do well to watch this man's career as early returns indicate a very bright future in both the filming and writing of genre fiction. Seeing this film now, I am sure I will be looking back in five to eight years when he has some blockbuster of a film and is being paid tens of millions of dollars to direct more mainstream fare that I will say to myself, "Yup, saw that coming" much like I did with Peter Jackson and "Heavenly Creatures" (which too had its controversy with violence and bloodletting). Take a dramamine, don't eat a big dinner and you should be fine to enjoy what is going to be an extremely well known cult film and director until he hits it big time which should be in short order.