Bone Tomahawk ★★★½

I confess, I had fun with this bloody tale of the abduction of a murderous thief (David Arquette) and a spunky doctor (Lili Simmons) and the pursuit of the marauding savages by her hobbled husband (Patrick Wilson), an adventurous bachelor (Matthew Fox), a no-nonsense sheriff (Kurt Russell), and his "backup" deputy (Richard Jenkins). One early reviewer characterized this feature debut by writer/director C. Craig Zahler as a mashup of The Searchers (1956) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), which is understandable, if not a bit reductive. Suffice to say, Zahler deconstructs the horror and western narratives like two separate jigsaw puzzles, throws all the pieces into a hat, shakes it all up, and then grabs as many pieces as he can hold (along with a piece of Jurassic Park III (2001)) and crams them into one jagged two hour and twelve minute picture. We get a standard horror film prologue (a la monster-provoking desecration, featuring Sid Haig, no less) and a standard horror film resolution (a la blood and guts); and in between, we get elements from both the old school and new school westerns - the gritty epic trek fueled by loyalty/justice/revenge, the formal dialogue peppered with enigmatic one-liners and dry humor, etc. Not all the pieces fit, so there's a little roughness around the edges (particularly with that dialogue). And the film feels a bit too conscious of its own genre play. But with modest b-movie aspirations, it all kinda works, thanks in large part to an overqualified cast that is clearly game (particularly Jenkins as the town idiot/comic relief and Simmons as the film's female presence/intelligence check).

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