Bone Tomahawk review

Bone T PosterGenre: Adventure, Drama, Horror, Western
Starring: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Evan Jonigkeit.
Year Of Release: 2016 (UK), 2015 (US)
Certificate: 18 (UK)
Runtime: 132 Minutes
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Synopsis: “Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.” IMDB



The Western…. A genre I have a real soft spot for. They cast my mind back to lazy Sunday afternoons with my grandparents watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies on TV. Now they seem to be a little few and far between but happily the ones we do see drifting our way are rather good. The Coen brothers’ True Grit (2010) as an example was outstanding, giving us Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn mumbling his way straight onto my favourite ever characters’ list and in my opinion topping the original John Wayne performance.

The remake of 3-10 to Yuma, The Proposition, Slow West, The Salvation, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and The Rover all had me blown away with what can be saddled up and spurred on for a modern audience. Each of the afore mentioned movies held dear all of what the westerns of old focused on as narrative. The lone gunman seeking revenge, the alcoholic good Samaritan, the small town saviour or the aged lawman picking up his six shooters again. All plot stalemates to the Westerns of old, but in these more recent films fresher ideas reinvigorate and sharp scripting allows for a much more modern and realistic feel. As well as the now seemingly limitless boundaries of special effects, so no more hugely visible chest squibs or bloodless gunshot accompanied dramatic fall cowboy deaths.
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Particularly I have fond memories of Tombstone (1993), starring Kurt Russell as the illustrious Sheriff Wyatt Earp. Being an enormous fan of Russell it instantly became a favourite. Also offering us an excellent turn by Val Kilmer as Tuberculosis ridden quick draw Doc Holiday. After a twenty-three- year hiatus from the western Mr Russell returned on form at the end of last year in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. He ran away with the movie for me as bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth. All steely blue eyes and giant handlebar moustache, he fits so perfectly as a western (anti-) hero it’s a surprise he hasn’t put a few more under his (gun) Belt. This brings me to his most recent effort, Bone Tomahawk. Released early 2016 in the UK it seemed to get quite a limited release at the cinema and slipped under my radar. I caught a few reviews and I had to see it. The premise of the movie is western 101 simple. A stranger arrives in town, finds himself arrested by Sheriff Richard Hunt (Kurt Russell) and spends a night in the cells, said stranger and a few town residents including Cowboy Patrick Wilson’s wife are kidnapped and a small group are deployed to find them. Simple? Far from it. This movie hops its genre two thirds in and becomes one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen. To say even a little about what occurs in the last hour or so would give too much away and ruin the experience. My advice would be to go into this with as little information on plot as possible. It really will add to the gut punches that are to come.
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The performances throughout the cast are excellent. Patrick Wilson, an actor I’m not normally a fan of is on fine form here. His character Arthur O’Dwyer suffering from a leg injury gained before the movie begins that maligns his movement. This is a clever plot piece that creates edge of seat tension more than once. He never misses a beat and you route for him passionately. Kurt Russell is as usual brilliantly watchable. An honourable mention goes to an almost unrecognisable Richard Jenkins (John C Reilly’s father in Step Brothers) as old back-up deputy Chicory. He breaths humour into what is a very serious movie without toppling it into silliness. In fact, on more than a few occasions throughout humour is delivered wonderfully helping lighten what, at its core is a very dark experience.

As a first time director S. Craig Zahler (here also taking credit as writer) does a sterling job of world building and immersing us in the stifling heat and gritty terror of this especially wild west. You can almost taste the dust in the air if watching on a HD format.
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So now a warning; if you are of a nervous disposition or decide to eat within the last half hour of the movie I urge you to pause it and put on your big girl/boy pants. Place your hands up to your eyes and prepare to gasp a lot. There is a shocking few minutes that had me swearing at the movie wide eyed in disbelief at what was unfolding on screen. I like to think as far as horror and violence on screen I am rather unflinching. Nope. I flinched. In fact, as I sit here now I find it tough to run those few minutes back verbatim through my memory bits. Its grand guignol at its best.


A clever twist on the age old Western formula that will have you on the edge of your seat. Rounded performance and a molasses black sense of humour lead to a great tense couple of hours. This version of the wild west will take some taming. Just count those final shots.

8 out of 10