Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Evan Jonigkeit, Kathryn Morris, Sid Haig, David Arquette, Fred Melamed, Sean Young, Michael Pare, Geno Segers
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 132
Date: 10/30/2015

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Weird Western

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A debut feature by S. Craig Zahler, this feels like a potential cult favorite; it's strange and disturbing, but also imaginative and surprising. It displays a rare, impressive amount of patience. Although it's a long 132 minutes, the movie's greatest strength is its pacing. No moment feels wasted, and every moment is an opportunity for greater richness of character, or to ponder the rights and wrongs of the situation. The playful dialogue often takes advantage (listen for one monologue about a flea circus!).

When two misfits (Sid Haig and David Arquette) disrupt a sacred burial ground, a tribe of primitive, mysterious peoples attack the neighboring town, killing bystanders and kidnapping a doctor Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simmons). The doctor's husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), despite his injured leg, is determined to rescue her. He sets out with Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), assistant deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), and a well-spoken gunman, John Brooder (Matthew Fox), to find the cave-dwelling tribe. Arthur's leg gives the men plenty of trouble along the way, especially after brigands steal their horses. But when the savages turn out to be far stranger and deadlier than anyone could have imagined, it's up to Arthur to save the day.

The director has a gift for the unexpected, and manages to get in many sudden twists. However, he does not shy away from intense moments of pain and suffering; Arthur's injured leg in particular causes many wince-inducing sequences. Also, the evil natives are painted as monsters without much chance to seem human; it's a white, western, outsiders' view of "the other." Bone Tomahawk is definitely not for fans of the mainstream, but for the adventurous, it's worth a look.

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