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Bone Tomahawk

172099

Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, Lili Simmons, Sean Young, David Arquette, Richard Jenkins, Kathryn Morris, Sid Haig, Michael Paré

S. Craig Zahler makes his directorial debut in this Western horror set in the 1890s. When local doctor Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simmons) suddenly goes missing along with a crook and deputy sheriff the only clue left...

17.99

£6.00

S. Craig Zahler makes his directorial debut in this Western horror set in the 1890s. When local doctor Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simmons) suddenly goes missing along with a crook and deputy sheriff the only clue left behind is a single arrow, the marker of a group known as the 'Troglodytes', infamous for their brutality and cannibalism. Samantha's husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) sets out with a team of three men to retrieve their captive townsfolk. The band includes Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), womaniser John Brooder (Matthew Fox) and 'back up deputy sheriff' Chicory (Richard Jenkins). Their rescue journey is fraught with violence and misfortune, but their foe is much more savage than they could have predicted.
  • Featuring Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, Lili Simmons, Sean Young, David Arquette, Richard Jenkins, Kathryn Morris, Sid Haig, Michael Paré
  • Directors S. Craig Zahler
  • Other Cast Benji Bakshi, Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler, Jack Heller, Dallas Sonnier, S. Craig Zahler
  • Running time 132 minutes
  • Certification 18
  • Languages English
  • Region 2
  • Format DVD
  • Year 2015
  • Release Date 13/06/2016
  • Number of Discs 1
  • Colour Colour
  • Label Elevation Sales
  • RRP 17.99
  • Country of Origin United States of America

This hybrid Western dispatches four makeshift gunslingers into the wilderness after their town comes under attack from outside forces. It makes The Hateful Eight look like so much pantomime…

This two-hour-plus Kurt Russell Western, S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk, goes for the jugular from the get-go: its very first image sees the throat of some unfortunate gurglingly slit by the blunt knife of a bushwhacker.

Where Tarantino, in The Hateful Eight, turned out talk by the yard, Zahler immediately announces himself as a man of action. Interrupted by approaching footsteps, the murderer (David Arquette) witnesses his sidekick (Sid Haig) lingering too long in the native burial ground they’ve disturbed, and taking an arrow through the epiglottis for it. Fade to black. Cue title. Hold onto your hats.

The 130 minutes that follow, one of the more unusual and striking genre deformations the American cinema has recently sprung upon audiences, will describe a concatenation of grisly events. Arquette eventually scuttles into the well-appointed town of Bright Hope, where he’s swiftly placed under lock and key by sheriff Russell and his deputy Richard Jenkins; trouble is, he’s been tracked there by a vengeful tribe of outsiders who aren’t in the least interested in Russell’s new-fangled theories of law and order, nor indeed civilisation.

When he’s not going for your neck, Zahler wants your ears, yet his stylised dialogue picks up not from Tarantino, but the HBO series Deadwood. Spread over the deliberate first act, it succeeds in defining the diverse personalities of a community rattled by a sneak attack on the homefront: the flash Harry (Matthew Fox) driven to take action more from preening self-regard than devotion to a nobler cause, the hobbling jock (Patrick Wilson) whose wife was snatched by the invaders, an editor whipping up popular support for Sheriff Russell’s retributive crusade (“Does anybody know how to spell troglodytes?”).

Riding upfront are the performances you may have been hoping for from The Hateful Eight, where the actors were ultimately reduced to script delivery systems. Though a welcome rediscovery of Russell’s ability to take charge of almost any given scene and scenario, Bone Tomahawk is just as notable for Jenkins’ radical (and radically funny) reclamation of the whiskery-old-coot archetype formerly embodied by Walter Brennan: you’d want his doctor-turned-deputy at your side when there are this many wounds to be cauterised.

This emphasis on injury detail is where Bone Tomahawk first reveals its true colours as a horror movie in chaps. Zahler’s film eventually boils down to four men riding out into the wilderness on a spurious (if not outright suicidal) mission, and coming to find themselves at the mercy at whatever lurks beyond the city limits. Left to hike through the desert in the chill of the dark, the foursome stand as much chance of survival as the isolated Alaskan scientists in The Thing, or the kids in The Blair Witch Project.

Zahler’s floating the idea that as much as certain sections of American society like to think of themselves as civilised, they’re still prone to over-extending their authority, and thereby initiating all manner of savagery. As Wilson’s wife (Lili Simmons) puts it, when asked what might be the greatest threat this landscape faces, “It’s not the Injuns, it’s the idiots.” (Go Trump!)

In venturing this editorial within the context of a long haul through uncharted territory, Bone Tomahawk is arguably saying no more or less than the perilously windy Best Picture contender The Revenant. Yet it does so with greater character and dynamism, and far less sense of strain or posturing either behind or before the camera: the violence – when it arrives – is untelegraphed and genuinely horrifying, elevated by brutally effective Foley work.

I’m not sure John Ford would take kindly to the manner in which the upstart Zahler plays fast and loose with frontier myth, but the Hawks of Rio Bravo and El Dorado – the Hawks who inspired John Carpenter to take a chance on this Kurt Russell fellow first time around – would have had a whole lot of fun with it. Providing he had the stomach.

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