Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of finishing post and releasing my 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.


Week 107: Bone Tomahawk


Concluding my month-long look at Westerns made since the year 2000, a third viewing of Bone Tomahawk confirms my belief that it is tied with Appaloosa as the best Western so far this century.

The film actually gets better upon repeated viewings, during which Zahler’s structure and character development can be even more appreciated. I love the slow build of this film. After the initial violent teaser, we set it for a long set up that takes its time with characters. I’ve often compared this film with Jaws: men with opposite personalities on a journey in unknown terroritory to defeat a mysterious enemy. And like that classic, this one features great comic relief mixed with moments of incredible suspense. The men are all so well drawn by Zahler and his actors but my favorite is still Brooder played by Matthew Fox. This dangerous dandy is an unforgiving character. He’s racist which is realistic for the time and the film doesn’t apologize for it. He doesn’t have some change of heart that makes us feel all nice and fuzzy because guess what? That’s not what happens most of the time in real life. Like many of Zahler’s other creations in this film and others, he is messy and complex. Fox proves himself to be as well suited for Westerns as Kurt Russell and I wish he’d take more projects like this.

Little did I know six years ago when I saw Bone Tomahawk in the theater that S. Craig Zahler would become my favorite modern director. He has since proven himself to be the most interesting filmmaker to watch and the only one creating great pulp entertainment. For those who like this, I also recommend his Western novels.

Watched on DVD.