Bone Tomahawk (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Directed by S. Craig Zahler. With Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins.


Director S. Craig Zahler proves himself one to watch with his debut big screen offering, Bone Tomahawk, a descent-into-hell western starring Kurt Russell as an unswerving small town sheriff leading three other men in a dangerous search for a kidnapped woman, which takes them into the godless badlands of the unknown. It doesn’t help that said woman has been snatched by a cave-dwelling band of cannibalistic Native Americans. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted.

A gruesome tone is established in the opening frames, which mirrors the introduction of the very first episode of Game of Thrones, inviting the audience to suspect a sense of something unnatural lurking in the back of beyond.

Sheriff Russell is joined by a badly incapacitated Patrick Wilson (it’s his wife that’s been taken), a barely recognisable Matthew Fox (remember him from TV’s Lost?) and the magnificent Richard Jenkins. They make for an incongrous bunch – less a hateful eight and more a hopeless four, yet their forced bond in the harshest of settings plays host to a unusual teaming that we can root for, despite the challenges they present to each other and us.

Wilson’s character is the audience, our latching-on point if you will – a wholly decent man willing to sacrifice himself for love, while a tough-but-fair Russell and a well-to-do Fox represent a struggle for male dominance. The old man of the group is Jenkins, whose eccentricity brings flickers of light amid a descending sense of desperation. All four performances add depth but two inparticular standout – Russell channeling an old-man version of his Wyatt Earp from Tombstone, and Fox with an eye-catching riff on Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday, complete affluent tastes, condescending manner and a quick trigger finger.

Two-thirds a straight-up western, one-third The Hills Have Eyes, Zahler not only directs with a deft understanding of old and new in his pacing, he also writes characters with a touch of wry incidental sprinklings, much like a well-behaved Quentin Tarantino. As shocking as the final act is (one hide behind the couch moment), the hazardous journey there builds the characters well, allowing us in enough to give a damn about what happens to them.



About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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19 Responses to Bone Tomahawk (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. SpeedySailor says:

    Excellent review mate and an absolutely brutal film.

  2. Bill Coffin says:

    There is so much to like about this one. Just one aspect I really enjoyed was how we never got a clear explanation of our antagonists. Just a force that developed on its own, cares not at all for the laws of man, and abides by its own twisted logic. A great take on the monster within humanity.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Bill, you’re spot on with that assessment. Bone Tomahawk asks a lot of questions about who are are, as a species. In some ways, the Matthew Fox character is an extension of that question. He’s affluent, well-to-do, and seems to think he’s a superior being. When it’s apparent to him that he isn’t, he doesn’t want to live.

  3. Ricardo says:

    This movie was very intense and brutal. Would recommend Zahler’s follow up, Brawl on Cell Block 99.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, Ricardo. I have heard nothing but glowing praise for Brawl in Cell Block 99, which has sky-rocketed up my must-see list. S. Craig Zahler is one to watch.

  4. I loved that ugly-beauty of this movie and how unpredictable it was. I was expecting a straightforward rescue movie, and I got that, but I didn’t expect it to be highly entertaining. And yes, I echo the recommendation above. “Cell Block” is a must-see.

    • garethrhodes says:

      ‘Ugly beauty’ is a good description. You’re right in what you say, and I think the straightforwardness allows it to be more entertaining. I recently watched Atomic Blonde, which was an entertaining movie, overcomplicated by a busy plot. Cant wait to see ‘Cell Block’.

  5. Dan O. says:

    A rough watch. But man, it’s intense. Nice review Gareth.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thanks Dan. ‘Intense’ and ‘rough’ are two words I’d use. I just watched The Hateful Eight for the first time. Another brutal, captivating western starring Kurt Russell. He’s perfect in both.

  6. Benn Bell says:

    Good review. I liked the movie but thought it was a little over the top.

  7. David Hughes says:

    This gripped me from beginning to end. The unique blend of the classic Western narrative with the sheer menacing brutality and terror of the horror elements was done almost to perfection. I found the pacing perhaps a tad slow at times but that is really the only bone of contention I could find.

    • garethrhodes says:

      “The brutality and terror of the horror elements” – so true. I never got fidgety or distracted during this. Impressed with the director, especially considering it’s his first feature gig.

      • David Hughes says:

        Absolutely. He seems to have a real eye for putting an original spin on what seems quite well worn material. I have rarely seen a better genre fusion – especially impressive since it is his first feature.

  8. Zoë says:

    Oooh, this one was good. I have been thinking about a rewatch. It might be time soon. Nice write up!

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