Despite its liking for gore, BONE TOMAHAWK seemed to me quite an old-fashioned kind of western.
We have here Kurt Russell in the grizzly old marshal John Wayne role; Richard Jenkins in the old kindly sidekick Walter Brennan role; Matthew Fox in the dandy gunslinger role (I’m trying to think of a perfect analogy – Kirk Douglas perhaps); and Patrick Wilson in the decent man suffering through terrible things James Stewart role.
(Perhaps though the closest role model for the Patrick Wilson role is Patrick Wilson, whose played a decent man suffering through the unknown and spooky in ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious’, and even ‘Fargo’. That’s not meant in any way as a criticism. He’s a good in the role, and when the day comes when he decides he’s bored playing it, that will be a real shame.)
Even the villain, well in a less enlightened age (I’m looking at you, 1950s) they wouldn’t be troglodytes, they’d be plain old native Americans. Cultural sensitivities be damned!
I don’t mean any of that as a criticism. I really enjoyed BONE TOMAHAWK and think it was the better of Kurt Russell’s two recent westerns. As much as I liked HATEFUL EIGHT, it was Tarantino grandstanding, this gave us a real story, proper characters to care about – you know, things that involve the audience in a film.
Four men form a posse to rescue a deputy and a doctor who have been kidnapped by fearsome cave dwellers. They’re a mismatched and bickering foursome, who are forced to pull together when they realise they’re in far more danger than they could possibly have imagined.
As I’ve said before, simple gore doesn’t thrill me anymore, but here it is at least used to determine character and increase tension, and not just as a means unto itself. But the good points to really take away from BONE TOMAHAWK are the sharp character interplay, the uniformly good performances and the dialogue which sounds like arcane old Americana – although that might just be a screenwriter’s clever ear tricking me.
It set me thinking, there should be more horror westerns, shouldn’t there? It’s a fascinating and yet underused crossing I can remember GRIM PRAIRIE TALES from the 80s, and of course there’s BILLY THE KID VERSUS DRACULA. Intrigued, I dug around the internet a bit and came across this list. Looks like my LoveFilm wish-list is about to get some interesting stuff added to it.