Kurt Russell and cannibals—these two reasons alone draw viewers to Bone Tomahawk. Playing a small town sheriff set in the fictional old-western town of Bright Hope, Russell leads a small group of four townsmen many miles into the desert to rescue captives from a vicious cannibalistic tribe. On paper, this plot sounds like a grand slam; unfortunately, director S. Craig Zahler’s execution delivers a one-run hit at best.
Bone Tomahawk opens with the slashing of a throat, followed by an intense human mauling from an unknown entity. This misleads you to think the entire movie consists of good old-fashioned carnage associated with cannibals and Kurt Russell. Unfortunately, almost the entire movie follows the four townsmen through a baron Wild West, with little action along the way. Soon after the opening scene, we meet the three men who eventually join Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) on his rescue mission: Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), John Brooder (Mathew Fox) and the Sheriff’s Deputy, Chicory (Richard Jenkins). Arthur’s wife disappears one night while she is tending to an injured drifter at the local jailhouse. A particularly unique arrow left in the wall of the jailhouse lead the men to believe the culprits are a tribe of cannibals that live deep in a valley miles away. Sheriff Hunt and his three companions take to the desert to locate the tribe and rescue Arthur’s wife, no matter the cost. It takes an awfully long time for them to finally come across the tribe, but when they do chaos ensues. I won’t reveal the outcome of the rescue mission, but after watching, I wish a much larger portion of the film was dedicated to the confrontation between the townsmen and the cannibals.
Hopes of an epic showdown between the Sheriff’s gang and the cannibals was the only thing that kept me interested during the films two hour runtime. The plot synopsis leads a viewer to expect an action packed movie; in reality they put up with almost two hours of banter for 15 minutes of action at the end, which somehow also seems to unfold at a slow pace (although one extremely brutal death scene at the end almost makes up for the induced boredom). The lack of soundtrack makes the film seem longer than it is, and the dialogue drags; a mediocre script causes lackluster performances by otherwise very talented actors. What a shame that a movie with great actors and an awesome plot fell so flat.
Nobody goes into this movie wanting to see a group of men walking for miles in a vast desert. They want to see Kurt Russell killing cannibals and, unfortunately, far too little of that makes this film easily forgettable.