Director: S. Craig Zahler
Writer: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, Evan Jonigkeit, David Arquette, Fred Melamed, Sid Haig
Part of: /slash Christmas special
Seen on: 17.12.2015
When a stranger, Purvis (David Arquette), stumbles into town, Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) is suspicious of him, especially after a report from his backup deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) informs him that he saw the stranger behave weirdly just outside the city limits. When Purvis’ answers don’t satisfy Hunt, he shoots him in the leg and has Samantha (Lili Simmons), the closest thing the town has to a doctor, take care of him. The next morning, Purvis, Samantha and Depty Nick (Evan Jonigkeit) have been taken and there was a murder in town. Hunt, Chicory, educated gunslinger Brooder (Matthew Fox) and Samantha’s husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) take up the trail to get them back.
Bone Tomahawk was openly, outrageously, unflinchingly, unwaveringly and unquestionably racist. So much so, in fact, that I’m honestly surprised that this film got made in this day and age.
If we take a moment to set aside the racism of the film – and trust me, this is not easy – I can say that Bone Tomahawk wasn’t that bad as a film. It wasn’t exactly smart, but at least it wasn’t boring, nice to look at (and I don’t just mean Patrick Wilson) and had a good cast who got to deliver some nice bits of dialogue.
But there is the racism. And it isn’t that Brooder – who happens to be the learned man in the group – is a racist if ever there was one, even if he does get a redeeming hero death in the end, because racist or not, he is a good gay. No, the problem is much more obvious: the monsters in the film are obviously meant to be Native Americans. The one Native American, who is a “civilized”, town-living, suit-wearing, in short assimilated “good Native”, even spells it out, saying something along the lines, “you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between us and the monstrous cave dwellers you’re setting out to hunt, but trust me there is one.” All that serves is that the line between assimilated good guys and unassimilated savages is even further set in stone.
And then we meet those monstrous cave-dwelling savages, who aren’t and yet are very much like Native Americans. They certainly have been there longer than the white people, and they have their own culture and traditions. But not only are they evil, greedy, murderous cannibals, they are actually physically different from humans making it impossible to really communicate with them. Making them inhuman.
The one advantage of so much racism slapping you in the face is that you barely notice the sexism in the film anymore (there are practically no women in it in the first place, the most important to the story is the damsel in distress. The two pregnant troglodyte women we get to see are only there to underscore how evil the monsters are – because women’s rights are only good when they can be used to show how bad the others are). But that is a small advantage indeed. Much better to stay away from the film in the first place.