Bone Tomahawk Review
More genre-gutting than genre-defying
Well-timed to ride to coat-tails of Kurt Russell’s celebrated second collaboration with Tarantino, The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk will surprise many expecting just another Western, meta-revisionist or otherwise.From its horror-movie-style opening, establishing the almost supernatural villains of the piece, to the unquestionably survivor-horror-esque final act, Bone Tomahawk gleefully cross-pollinates its unconventional narrative structure with horror genre seeds cast in a quintessential Western backdrop. This may look, and feel, like the Old West we are all familiar with, but it is anything but.Even its core quartet of characters – a hardened sheriff and his scatty deputy; a recuperating cowboy and a dapper gentleman – are only conventional at first glance, with the respective actors – Russell, Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) and Matthew Fox (Lost) – initially playing to expectations but soon developing richer, more nuanced cores.
As the narrative too goes against the norm, and sees them taking an unexpectedly arduous voyage across the unforgiving open plains in search of an enemy who will more than likely destroy them, the quartet struggle against both the harsh environment and amidst themselves, all the while revealing more about what brought each of them to that point in life, in the first place.
Defying expectations with bloody glee.
The debut directorial outing for writer S. Craig Zahler (who has dabbled in both the horror and western genre before, and whose latest novel is due to be made into a serial killer police thriller starring DiCaprio), Bone Tomahawk is a surprisingly accomplished piece, which seemingly effortlessly evades genre conventions at almost every turn and frequently feels both fresh and unpredictable in a genre where you would assume – after over 100 years – almost everything must have been done before at some stage or another.
Of course it could be argued that the film’s confluence of wide-open-range ‘road-movie’, which may appeal to more conventional Western fans, and unreservedly horror-driven bookends, that will suit those looking for a more bloody encounter, arguably tries to have its cake and eat it, and may lose something as a result. Certainly catering for both tastes threatens to dilute the experience for either camp, however a more open-minded appreciation for whatever unconventionality this piece might offer will likely result in the most satisfying viewing experience. Ultimately Bone Tomahawk remains a strong debut worth celebrating – and investigating – even if it is one that may not appeal to everyone.
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