The American Western lives and breathes.
First time filmmaker S. Craig Zahler strips the Western genre of any romantic trappings with a compelling, tense, and savage depiction of American frontier life in late 19th Century. Forget any preconceived notions of low budget or indie, the 2015 film ‘Bone Tomahawk‘ is the real deal.
With most of the men off on a cattle drive it’s up to Sheriff Franklin Hunt (an amazing, resolute Kurt Russell) to protect his quaint prairie town of “Brite Hope”. An easy task until a bandit drifter arrives unintentionally bringing on his heels an unhinged tribe of Native warriors seeking primordial justice.
Getting limited help from rickety part-time deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins, by way of Walter Brennan) the sheriff must now hunt down those who’ve taken both this drifter and the innocent bystander Samantha (Lili Simmons). In way over their heads, they reluctantly posse up with Samantha’s injured husband (Patrick Wilson) and a local gunslinger (Matthew Fox) in succeed or die trying pursuit.
Zahler takes his time to develop these characters and their stories using beautiful California desert stages and a respectable cast of players led by the always solid Russell.
The pacing may be slow-burn, but the pay off is stellar. A mixture of graphic horror and revisionist Western. Think the unholy bastard child of ‘The Seekers’ and ‘Apocalypto’. Definitely not for the faint of heart as the deaths are slasher film gory.
‘Bone Tomahawk‘ is a strong reminder of how powerful a Western can be. Putting people on the fringes of humanity and against all odds of survival creates high tension and deep-rooted drama. Great performances, unflinching brutality, grand desert vistas, and confident, honest storytelling.