Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

It has been said that films are not timeless but timely. Bone Tomahawk knows exactly what it is and when it is, making it as timely as a Quentin Tarantino film.

S. Craig Zahler’s feature directorial debut is a dark film that dances around the edge of the “weird west” genre without going all the way in. It doesn’t have heavy doses of other genres. It does have Kurt Russell, tomahawks, and bones. It’s pretty good.


The imagery of the film makes characters look like badasses without making them look superhuman. Here’s a guy, lying prone, knowing he could be tomahawk’d at any moment, an armed adversary runs at him and he does what he has to do. It’s harder-hitting than seeing professional badasses in sci-fi stories, because in this movie the characters are clearly unprepared for the situations they get into.

I’m not going to say much more on the tone, what with this year’s taboo of stylized violence. The director is a big Tarantino fan, so I think that’s all that needs to be said on the matter.

The bad guys are a tribe that stands apart from the typical American “Indians”. As presented, they could even be a separate species.

The two main theories on ancient North American colonization are: land migration via present-day Alaska, and boat migration to present-day Mexico. Either way, there is no evidence of pre-homo sapiens populations in present-day Texas. If I am interpreting the film correctly, it seems to deviate from the scientific literature.

That’s right, cavemen in Texas (or whichever western territory the film takes place in; no state is named). Not just cavemen, but cavemen with special bones that make howling noises. Their lack of speech capabilities precludes the boat migration theory.

Science aside, the film feels a hair more believable than Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and takes itself more seriously. The weirdest thing about Bone Tomahawk is how normal it pretends to be. This is, at its core, a western, accessible to aging fans of the genre yet still unconventional. True Grit it is not.

The director did the theme song that plays over the end credits. Light gothic metal that sounds like Spinal Tap. If anything matches the tone of the film, it’s Tap.

Though not a strong recommendation, I recommend this film to anyone who wants to see some semi-realistic hominid creatures pop out of nowhere and then get shot like it’s a video game.