Bone Tom­a­hawk



EVENGE IS A DISH best served hot, or at least lightly roasted, for the vil­lains in first-time direc­tor S. Craig Zahler’s de­light­fully grisly West­ern — a tribe of can­ni­bals who kid­nap folk, scalp them alive, snap their limbs like wish­bones and then chow down on the bloody re­mains. That’s the fate fac­ing any fron­tiers­man who wan­ders into their burial ground. These cave-dwellers are truly from a most un­usual stock — “in­bred an­i­mals who rape and eat their own mothers”, we’re in­formed.

Cer­tainly, their meal prepa­ra­tion is grue­some and they blind and hob­ble their wom­en­folk. But don’t be fooled. For all the hor­ror tags, this is not a film de­fined by schlock and gore. It starts with a throat-slic­ing, but the blood­let­ting doesn’t be­gin in earnest un­til the cli­max. Up un­til then, Bone

Tom­a­hawk plays as a di­a­logue-rich, old-timey West­ern, fo­cused on four towns­men bick­er­ing their way across a for­bid­ding land­scape to res­cue their kid­napped brethren.

And what a mot­ley, bril­liantly cast crew they are. The group is led by a heav­ily whiskered Kurt Russell, the sort of sage, un­emo­tional sher­iff who might front a John Ford movie. Also on board are his lik­able, white-bearded deputy (Richard Jenk­ins), and a neatly mous­tached and smart-alecky gun­slinger (Matthew Fox) who, like John Wayne in The

Searchers, is driven by dis­dain for Na­tive Amer­i­cans. The group’s rounded out by a clean-shaven gent whose wife’s been ab­ducted (Pa­trick Wil­son).

The four­some’s in­ter­play is the fish in Zahler’s chowder, and their sharp turns of phrase — “Mr. Brooder just ed­u­cated two Mex­i­cans on the mean­ing of man­i­fest des­tiny” — make for fine din­ing. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy adds ex­tra flavour with its stark de­pic­tion of a primeval land. Some, how­ever, might find the film’s chatty mid­dle too flabby.

But when that bat­tle ar­rives, it doesn’t dis­ap­point. The bad­dies are ter­ri­fy­ing, and the fi­nal show­down, fea­tur­ing an in­ter­est­ing use of a hip flask, is taut and in­ven­tive. Sadly, the ex­tras here are or­di­nary, with two on-stage Q+AS and a fea­turette made from generic jun­ket in­ter­views. Still, the main event more than com­pen­sates. Shot on a tiny bud­get in just 21 days, Bone Tom­a­hawk is as pierc­ing, and as piti­less, as its name sug­gests.

Above: Richard Jenk­ins and Kurt Russell re­gret tak­ing the law into their own hands. Be­low: Don’t mess with Sid Haig when he’s hun­gry...

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