A violent and beautifully performed western from an impressive new voice in American filmmaking
If you’ve been waiting ages for a verbose and bloody Western starring Kurt Russell, then you’ve just hit the jackpot. There’s a risk of Bone Tomahawk being overshadowed by Tarantino’s behemoth The Hateful Eight, but S Craig Zahler’s strikingly confident and richly imagined debut feature is a film that deserves to be discovered and celebrated.
Zahler’s background as a novelist is evident in his love of language, and the actors clearly relish his crunchy, witty, ornate dialogue, with Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and particularly Richard Jenkins delivering performances that rank as career highs. It’s a pleasure just to hang out with this mismatched group and enjoy the loose, Hawksian vibe as they embark on their rescue mission, although Zahler’s grasp of the tone gets a little shakier as the film moves towards its climax.
The explosion of grotesque violence that ends the film will thrill some and repulse others, but if you can stomach the gore and the questionable racial politics, then Bone Tomahawk is a rare treat from a distinctive new voice.