Bone Tomahawk
dir-scr S Craig Zahler
prd Jack Heller, Dallas Sonnier
with Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Evan Jonigkeit, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Morris, Sean Young, Michael Pare, Sid Haig
release US Sep.15 ff, UK Oct.15 lff
15/US 2h13
Bone Tomahawk
OK everyone, calm down: Russell

wilson fox jenkins
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Bone Tomahawk A fresh take on the Western genre, this film combines dark drama with snappy wit and grisly horror to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. So while it's riveting and unpredictable, with strikingly bold performances from the entire cast, it's also vaguely ridiculous in its grotesque exaggeration of frontier fears about Native Americans.

In Bright Hope (population 268), strangers pose the biggest threat. So Sheriff Franklin (Russell) isn't welcoming when a shifty man (Arquette) wanders into the saloon. Sure enough, things turn nasty because shadowy cave-dwelling natives have followed him into town, rustling horses and kidnapping both medicine woman Samantha (Simmons) and Deputy Nick (Jonigkeit). So Franklin sets out to find this lost tribe of troglodytes, accompanied by his back-up deputy Chicory (Jenkins), the sharp-dressed Brooder (Fox) and Samantha's husband Arthur (Wilson), who insists on coming along despite the fact that he's recovering from a serious leg injury.

The story pieces itself together slowly and surely in the early scenes, which are peppered with wryly hilarious observations and natural banter between the characters. They're also shot in an unusually realistic style with minimal music and a believable sense of the attempt to create a civilised society in a seriously uncivilised place. So their desperation when things go badly wrong is deeply felt, and nicely underplayed by the cast.

Wilson has the most involving role as a kind man who simply can't sit still while his wife is being held by savages, and yet he's so badly injured that his involvement in the posse requires almost superhuman dedication to the cause. By contrast, Russell is a razor-sharp observer who is quietly in control. Fox adds some edge as a cocky, wealthy neighbour no one trusts, for a variety of reasons. And Jenkins is simply marvellous as the tottering Chicory, who simply dismisses his mistakes by noting, "I'm old. I forget things."

After their tenacious trek across the harsh landscape, the team finds this renegade, tribe of howling cannibals, and the film shifts yet again, becoming genuinely terrifying. The point has been made early on that other Native American tribes don't think of them as brethren, which subtly adds a timely terrorism undercurrent to the film. And the way it plays out is remarkably earthy: hideously violent but also gritty and urgent. It certainly marks filmmaker Zahler as one to watch.

cert 18 themes, violence, language, sexuality 16.Sep.15

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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