LFF 2015 – Bone Tomahawk

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Entertaining Western-Horror mash-up in which two criminals who prey on sleeping travellers disturb a burial ground and bring down the retribution of a tribe of Native Americans (or so they assume) on the small town of Bright Hope. Purvis (David Arquette) wanders into town wearing the clothes of a man he killed, and ends up in the jailhouse with a bullet in his leg put there by the local lawman Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell). Young doctor Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) and a young deputy stay behind after hours to treat the prisoner. In the morning the jailhouse is empty and a nearby stable boy is found dead murdered. Five horses have been taken. A small posse is formed by the sheriff including as a courtesy O’Dwyer’s husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) who is impaired by a horrific leg injury, deputy lawman ‘Chicory’ (Richard Jenkins), and John Brooder (Matthew Fox) a dandified killer with a devout hatred of Native Americans.

While the film’s leisurely running time of 2 hours plus could have been cut down somewhat by spending less time showing the group struggling to make their way through the desert Bone Tomahawk works very well. It’s not quite in the same league as the recent genre mash-up The Burrowers (2008, J.T. Petty) which put a horror spin on John Ford’s classic 1956 movie The Searchers and had a sense of loss that’s largely missing here, but writer/director S. Craig Zahler’s screenplay is beautifully written mixing ornate language with gallows humour. Bone Tomahawk should please fans of both genres. There are enough horrific scenes in here to please gore hounds, while the Western elements work just as well. The whole cast deliver exceptional performances though the stand-out is the deadpan Matthew Fox who’s funny and ultimately moving as the seemingly heartless killer Brooder, while for fans of 80s’ movies there are cameos from Sean Young and Michael Pare

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