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S. Craig Zahler
Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox
S. Craig Zahler

In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town's doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $29.97
Release Date: 12/29/2015

• “The Making of Bone Tomahawk” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Q&A
• Poster Gallery
• Trailer & Previews


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Bone Tomahawk [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2020)

Though the genre goes dormant occasionally, the Western never really dies. For a recent update, we head to 2015’s Bone Tomahawk.

Set during the late 19th century, we go to the peaceful Western town of Bright Hope. In this setting, a clan of cannibalistic cave dwellers kidnaps a number of citizens.

This group of abductees includes Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), wife of ranch foreman Arthur (Patrick Wilson). Despite an injured leg, Arthur leads a rescue party, one that encounters considerable savagery from their foes.

Tomahawk represented filmmaker S. Craig Zahler’s directorial debut. Before I watched this film, I’d only seen his second effort, 2017’s Brawl in Cell Block 99.

Though I respected Zahler’s attempts to subvert genre expectations, I didn’t think Brawl worked as a whole. At 132 minutes, it ran way too long for the tale it wanted to tell, and it lacked consistency.

Some of the same issues befall Bone, especially in terms of running time. It also clocks in at 132 minutes, and that seems extended for a tale like this, especially since Bone lacks a great deal of plot.

The film takes more than half an hour to get to the abduction, and I can’t claim it explores its characters especially well during that time. Oh, we certainly get a feel for the roles, but the expanded space doesn’t allow the breadth one might expect given how few people it covers.

After that, Bone follows a straightforward “chase” narrative, albeit with a very slow pursuit. Most of the film covers the posse’s efforts to get to the savages, and we learn more about the characters along the way.

Though again, we don’t receive that much information, and Bone can seem perversely slow at times. I get the impression Zahler so wants to make something “different” that he doesn’t bother to realize his choices fail to work especially well.

Happily, the cast overcomes some of the script’s drawbacks. In addition to those mentioned, Bone features talents like Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox and David Arquette.

All manage to elevate their roles and add depth not apparent on the printed page. In particular, Jenkins’ turn as the beaten-down assistant deputy proves charming and engaging.

Because of the actors, Bone keeps us with it. However, it tends to feel rather slow and uneventful at times, factors that make it an erratic Western.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Bone Tomahawk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film boasted an excellent transfer.

At all times, sharpness worked well. Virtually no softness crept into the image, so it remained tight and concise.

Jaggies and moiré effects were absent, and I saw no edge haloes. Print defects also failed to appear.

In terms of palette, Bone opted for a heavily sepia feel. Almost no other hues ever popped up, and that was fine, as the tint suited the Western story.

Blacks came across as deep and rich, while shadows looked smooth and clear. This became a terrific presentation.

Though not as good, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack also satisfied. Much of the movie opted for a low-key presentation, with occasional bursts of action.

Scenes with gunfire added some pep, but most of the movie focused on ambience. The soundscape didn’t dazzle but it fleshed out the settings.

Audio quality worked fine. Speech was distinctive and crisp, and the musical score boasted nice range.

Effects seemed accurate and full. This wasn’t a slam-bang mix, but it worked fine for the story.

A few extras appear, and The Making of Bone Tomahawk runs 10 minutes, four seconds. It offers comments from writer/director S. Craig Zahler, producers Jack Heller and Dallas Sonnier, and actors Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, and Patrick Wilson.

“Making” examines story/characters as well as cast and performances, locations and production notes. This tends toward superficial promo piece material.

One Deleted Scene spans two minutes, 30 seconds and shows a postscript that follows the movie’s ending. It brings a more concrete view of where the surviving characters will go, and it seems pat and trite.

When we shift to a Fantastic Fest Q&A, we get a 34-minute, 40-second panel with Zahler, Wilson, Jenkins, Fox, Heller and Sonnier.

Via the Q&A, we hear about the movie’s development, cast and performances, aspects of the fairly short shoot, effects, influences, and related domains. Some useful material emerges, but the Q&A seems scattershot.

A Poster Gallery displays seven images. They’re interesting to see, even if we don’t find many of them.

The disc opens with ads for Dark Was the Night. Pay the Ghost and Odd Thomas. We also find a trailer for Bone.

Thanks to a strong cast, Bone Tomahawk becomes a more than watchable Western. However, it tends to feel a little too infatuated with its own sense of genre disruption and too interested in fluid storytelling. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals as well as positive audio and a few bonus features. I find enough here to recommend the film but I can’t claim it wholly satisfies.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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