Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Movie A Day: Bone Tomahawk

This is something I put on partly in order to hold me over for The Hateful Eight (which I still have yet to see), as it's another talky western starring Kurt Russell in what is essentially a starter-beard version of the one he wears in the Tarantino film. Bone Tomahawk does its best to hide the shoe-string budget it appears to have had, and yet it falls short at a few key moments. Many stretches of the film are clearly framed to avoid revealing anything that might ruin the illusion of its historical setting, and the town we start the film in has the look of one of those well maintained ghost towns you can take guided tours through. Overall the film fails to convey a sense of the wide open country the characters are travelling through, and sometimes gives the impression that Kurt Russell and his posse are camping out in somebodies backyard. That isn't necessarily a fatal flaw, but giving the film, or at least the film's world, a wider, less organized scope would have heightened the stakes considerably. It would also have helped disguise some of the rougher patches of the script, and a few of the more one-note performances. Outside of Russell, who is great as always, and Richard Jenkins, who is flat out phenomenal, none of the performers rise above the stock characters they've been asked to play. Patrick Wilson is his usual wooden self (though not without his charms), and Matthew Fox never feels like he's anything other than a 21st century man putting on period clothes for a long weekend of Civil War reenacting.

It's wrong to fault a film for what are, basically, unavoidable budgetary problems, but too often the film settles for 'good' when it could have been something special. Still, Russell and Jenkins carry the film with their natural, lived-in chemistry. Into the last 30 minutes, Bone Tomahawk takes a sharp turn into horror film territory, and although this is obviously the goal from the outset, it's still an effectively jarring transition. Suddenly, after all the languorous walking and talking, the film suddenly becomes an incredibly gory cannibal movie. The end credits feature a theme song that tells the story of the film, common to a lot of old Italian westerns, but the film could have used a bit more of the visual zeal and energy also common to those films.

I'll give this a solid 3 (out of 5). I liked it, enough to possibly watch it again, but only enough to recommend it to those already inclined to be interested in a talky, slow, gory western film.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved this movie! Kinda slow, but you know me,hopeless romantic . I do love Matthew Fox but Jenkins steals the show! Karena