Bone Tomahawk ★★★½

Bone Tomahawk, the film, is everything it's gloriously seventies-inspired poster would have you believe it is. From the opening frame we are privy to just how violent this ordeal is prone to get. The slitting of a throat is an excruciating act that is made even moreso when the person holding the knife is unsure of what they're doing. In the opening moments of Bone Tomahawk though it is clear that there are only assured hands present. Buddy (Sid Haig) and Purvis (David Arquette) slice the throats of unsuspecting travellers for no other reason than to rob them blind and move on to the next town. The violence is swift and the visuals are exceedingly bloody which seems to be just the way first time feature director S. Craig Zahler likes it. That this is actually Zahler's directorial debut is somewhat extraordinary as this largely feels like a movie made by an old pro or someone who knows the ropes of pacing and organic character development like the back of their hand. Even more impressive, Zahler single-handedly wrote the screenplay that more or less takes every trope from any Western you've ever seen and somehow incorporates them into an always tense, never yielding story that mirrors The Searchers meets any number of those Italian cannibal exploitation films. The inspirations are clear, the characters more or less archetypes, and the story is not particularly revelatory but somehow-more by craft that innovation-Zahler is able to bring his elements together and form a sum that is greater than it's well-worn parts. Zahler is somehow able to make cinema's oldest genre feel fresh again and that is the film's biggest accomplishment. To this effect, the film is more self-referential than it would be had it been made at another time, but this endearing, self-deprecating quality paired with excellent dialogue throughout and Kurt Russell playing a sheriff is ironically what lends the film it's stylish facade. Bone Tomahawk is as much a film to be admired as it is to be devoured, but that the promise behind these ideas and this style actually deliver is strangely rewarding in a way I didn't see coming.

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