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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: ‘Bone Tomahawk’s’ plot put the S in stupid


    Caliber Media Company

    We all make mistakes, but some are more memorable than others. One of these more resonant mistakes? Deciding to see “Bone Tomahawk.” The horror-Western starring Kurt Russell really turned into a horrific viewing experience.

    It’s easy to see the appeal of “Bone Tomahawk.” Straight from the Internet Movie Database’s mouth: “Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannabalistic cave dwellers.” This rescue squad is composed of four men: local Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), bumbling backup deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), mysterious and dapper John Brooder (Matthew Fox) and finally the hobbled but strapping Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), whose wife is among those captured by the cannibals. With a great cast and plot, what could go wrong? So, so much, it turns out.

    Disclaimer: “Bone Tomahawk” is not a terrible movie by filmmaking standards. The film is not a particularly good movie, but on the spectrum of quality, it would fall closer to good than bad. As for bright spots, Jenkins stands out as the likable Chicory. The blundering old timer’s rambles about reading books in the bath or the magic of flea circuses were welcome among the two hours of the film’s grim fare. That aside, I would still not recommend going to see “Bone Tomahawk” to any living soul I know.

    Before this movie, I would not have described myself as queasy or squeamish when it comes to violence and gore. After all, I’m an American. Guns and violence are in our DNA. It turns out, though, that I have my limits, and “Bone Tomahawk” is a film hellbent on testing limits.

    The first limit the film breaches: tolerance for old-timey, clunky dialogue. There’s an ebb and flow to the stilted dialogue of “Bone Tomahawk,” fluctuating from distractingly bad to acceptable. Much like terrible accents, the film would benefit from scrapping it all together and opting for modern English.

    Second limit: a soul-suckingly slow pace. You know that feeling when it’s Friday and the weekend is so close, yet so far? That glacially slow phenomenon is the muse of this flick’s pacing. The trek to the cannibals accounted for roughly 1.5 hours of screen-time. At one point after switching to traveling at night, the men have two camp scenes in the course of one day. Two camping scenes. In one day. O’Dwyer moved faster on a broken leg than this film.

    The third and most salient of limits: stomach-sickening gore. The film opens with a close-up of a man’s throat being slit with a dull knife. As I think back on the violent atrocities that pepper “Bone Tomahawk,” I remember this throat slitting scene and am filled with wistful regret. It’s a horror movie in the vein of the “Saw” series; the type of horror that showcases a man split in two after being fed his scalp. “Bone Tomahawk”: come for a horror-Western, leave with a stomach ache.

    The film fails in other regards as well, mainly those of character development and plot logic. Most characters come across as cardboard, especially Sheriff Franklin Hunt, whose characterization began and ended with his magnificent beard.

    In general, movies should get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to suspension of disbelief, but on-screen action so confounding it wrenches the viewer out of cinematic transfixion should be avoided. Such as when O’Dwyer takes a five-minute detour to perform the minor surgery of removing a bone ornament from the cannibal’s throat, meanwhile his wife is being held hostage by a group of ravenous cannibals. O’Dwyer backs up his logic, though; he mutters aloud to himself, “Is that jewelry?”

    As a film going experience, “Bone Tomahawk” is like eating a one-pound bag of sand. Not only is it gritty, dirty and unpleasant, but it takes over two hours to consume. On top of that, its contents left me with a stomach ache I will not soon forget. Unless you love slow-burning splatter films and a good Kurt Russell bear, skip this one.

    Grade: D

    Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter.

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