Film #1: BONE TOMAHAWK
2.5 out of 5 stars
I came to this modern Western hoping to like it. From everything I’d read and heard, this was going to a terrific addition to the genre. Even before seeing it, I loved the idea: cannibal tribe of savages abducts some townsfolk and a posse heads out after them. Further, I’d been warned that the film “was slow.” Growing up on Japanese cinema though, I was prepared for that. So, we hunkered in and clicked “Play.” Out of the box, Russell looks terrific and the cast is strong (especially Richard Jenkins). However, all too soon, we start to see cracks in the veneer. The dialog is kinda wonky – pretentious, stagey, and just this side of ostentatious. Then, there are the long sequences that I suppose were meant to be character development… but, instead, these scenes come off as superfluous and unnecessary. The downloading of pertinent plot / character details is a subtle thing and this screenwriter fumbles the ball terribly. I mean, do we need to hear Patrick Wilson read his letter out loud to get the idea that, yeah… he loves his wife? Instead of giving us insight, it’s merely chit-chat for the characters to say as we prep for the next scene. As the film progresses, and we get “on the road,” more things hobble the narrative – from Wilson’s injured leg to how none of these “seasoned” cowboys knows to keep a sentry awake when they’re sleeping. Ham-fisted plotting. Wild suppositions in narrative logic. And where we're the John Ford landscape shots? Where were the tracking shots? Yes, the third act is every bit as bloody and hard to watch as you’ve heard, but… in the end, we win up feeling as if we barely know these characters. The final sets of deaths were improbable and pretty damn convenient as well. I can see why some people hard a tough time with the film. So much wasted... and so much left untouched on the table. I guess I wanted more 13TH WARRIOR than this. I wanted to know about these guys. I wanted to know a bit more about the “Troglodytes” and their culture. Instead, BONE TOMAHAWK is an interesting experiment that just feels a little hollow. Like it was product of someone who watched a lot of Westerns, but never quite “got” what make them work effectively. But again… the gore is pretty jaw-dropping and one of the main reasons to see it. Worth checking out… just go in knowing a) it’s slow, b) it’s a little silly, and c) is not the best Western out there. That all said, I am interested in seeing further films by writer/director, Craig Zahler. This one was just a little flat. I think he has a good eye and, again, I love this premise.