“Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.”
Writer/Director: S. Craig Zahler
Released: 23 October 2015
Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins
To also see the full review of “Bone Tomahawk”, please visit my profile at IMDb, but its minus the cultural/societal observations given here.
“Russell, Fox and Jenkins give realistic, believable portrayals in their roles. Facing danger and death with the stoicism and dry wit historically attributed to many European settlers, as well as the historic though understated bigotry towards any non-whites one character voiced. Russell was on-point, his expressions and reactions excellent as Sheriff Hunt, and his “back-up” deputy Chicory played by Richard Jenkins and he had personal dynamics that really made the film.
Deaths were EXTREMELY graphic both visually and audibly in a stark brutally simplistic way. There is nothing of comedic horror in this film, of absurdity or “bloodshed for fun”. The setting, the “reality” of their situation were harsh and horrific in the exact sense of that word, and though tagged as “horror” in genre, it’s not one I would personally apply. While I didn’t care for the typical “settler heroes” vs. “savages” theme, the comment by a Native American in the film, “Those are not MY people!” provided some relevant clarity and truth that all Indigenous are not homogeneous, in past or present.
The only irritating part I found was Lili Simmons’ “Mrs. O’Dwyer”: a naturally young, very beautiful and highly skilled doctor who has lived in the west with her husband but still has to ask, “Are those gunshots?” The sex scene between her and her husband was the only gratuitousness I found in the film. Not opposed at all to sex, but it definitely seemed out of character with the rest of the film, and in my opinion was a crude way to show this woman was unconventional, different, and more likely to survive without fainting in a fit of vapors. Along with the end song, after setting such a gritty, stark western of determined courage in the face the unknown, those aspects lessened a higher rating for me. For those not used to or cannot handle such graphic visuals, the story itself is compelling enough to close your eyes at those points, because you don’t want to miss this unforgettable tale with overall great acting performances.
It’s been researched and statistically proven that films (though fictional) do influence beliefs and stereotypes about other peoples and cultures in the majority population, many of whom actually have little personal, extended experience with minorities. Not just on the job. Not just in class. In actual interpersonal or immersive experience with minorities. This is one of the strong reasons why they also seem not to see racism or racist activities or attitudes in daily life even if clearly identified by minorities or those from the majority who do or have.
That perspective is what I would begin any review of a film that has “natives” in it, especially if it is a western, of which many still is set with the European settlers as heroes and any non-Europeans or natives as their adversary, primitive, brutal, or at best a helper/guide or sidekick to whites. Besides the conversational or confrontational discussions many of us have had countless times on why always showing the European perspective of natives, it takes away natives having their own voice, control of their identities, and certainly their cultures, traditions and beliefs.
Hollywood and filmmakers historically and today continue reduce natives to stereotypes, statistically, definitely proven to be harmful to them, and misinforms yet again generation of non-natives who apathetically or aggressively dismiss native concerns. Adam Sandler’s “Ridiculous Six”, Eli Roth’s “Green Inferno”, Germany’s “New Winnetou” are just a few among many wrong, unethical and simply warrantless ugly portrayals of the indigenous. “Bone Tomahawk” has a problematic theme in this way as well, and deserves discussion.