Fresh from his glorious full-whiskered performance in The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell saddles up once more (sans razor) in S. Craig Zahler’s unsettling and gruesome Western drama, Bone Tomahawk.
After a couple of hobo lowlifes (Sid Haig and David Arquette) desecrate an ancient burial ground, a bloody sequence of events is set in motion as a reclusive, cannibalistic Troglodyte clan seeks vengeance and spoils – in the form of human captives.
This is a fine looking film, which conjures a veneer of old-fashioned matinee Westerns before changing tack and descending into a genuinely horrifying and dark tale of abduction, cannibalism and redemption.
The casting is superb, with the four main characters engaging in a brilliant and amusing cycle of bickering that leads to begrudging respect as they track their prey into the wilderness.
Kurt Russell, as the well meaning but hopelessly out of his depth Sheriff Franklin Hunt, delivers a perfectly weighted performance of bluster and unspoken insecurity as he balances responsibility with his own fears and prejudices. Matthew Fox, who you may remember from the TV series Lost, also excels as the arrogant, racist dandy and boastful ‘Indian killer’, John Brooder. Though quite why Brooder would be in such a dust bowl town as Bright Hope is never really explained. Patrick Wilson does an adequate job as the hobbled, caring husband of the town’s kidnapped doctor (Lili Simmonds), but the star of the film (certainly the verbal exchanges) is Richard Jenkins as the ever-eager but bungling ageing deputy, Chicory.
The intensity of the violence that punctuates Bone Tomahawk will both thrill and appal. And as explicit as the violence is, it is never revelled in; instead it is shown to illustrate human fear and confrontation of death.
Bone Tomahawk is a rare and distinctive treat and well worth the price of admission, even if Quentin Tarantino’s excellent The Hateful Eight has overshadowed it. It will be a shame if this film is allowed to slip under the radar and achieve only cult status.
Bone Tomahawk is released in cinemas on Friday 19 February 2016.