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Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray Review

Bone Tomahawk (2015) movie poster Bone Tomahawk

Theatrical Release: October 23, 2015 / Running Time: 132 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: S. Craig Zahler

Cast: Kurt Russell (Sheriff Franklin Hunt), Patrick Wilson (Arthur O'Dwyer), Matthew Fox (John Brooder), Richard Jenkins (Chicory), Lili Simmons (Samantha O'Dwyer), Evan Jonigkeit (Deputy Nick), David Arquette (Purvis), Fred Melamed (Clarence), Sid Haig (Buddy), Maestro Harrell (Gizzard), James Tolkan (Pianist), Kathryn Morris (Lorna Hunt), Zahn McClarnon (The Professor), Michael Emery (Redheaded Fellow), Jeremy Tardy (Buford), Michael Parι (Mr. Wallington), Sean Young (Mrs. Porter), Jamison Newlander (The Mayor), Erick Chavarria (Ramiro), Omar Leyva (Guapo), David Midthunder (Missshapen Troglodyte), Raw Leiba (Wolf Skull), Geno Segers (Boar Tusks), Alex Meraz (Eagle Skulls), Robert Mukes (Sentinel), Brandon Molale (Noseless Troglodyte), Eddie Spears (Serrated Tomahawk), Anthony "Gray Wolf" Herrara (Quiet Stalker), Benjamin "Blake" Woodruff (Young Troglodyte), Susie Castaneda (Pregnant Troglodyte A), Marem Hassler (Pregnant Troglodyte B)

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Since yesterday, Kurt Russell can be seen nationwide in The Hateful Eight, but Quentin Tarantino's bloody epic isn't the only chance to see Russell in a violent 2015 western.
The first was Bone Tomahawk, a film that barely made it to theaters and has quickly galloped to DVD and Blu-ray. Though that release pattern is one habitually applied to stinkers, Bone Tomahawk does not fit that label. It was well received by the few critics who caught it and even drew two unexpected nominations (for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor) at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, whose few prior film credits include scripting the 2012 horror movie Asylum Blackout and handling cinematography on some unknown student films, Bone Tomahawk is set in the Wild West in the late 1800s. We open with a grisly throat slicing, the first of several cringe-inducing moments to feature here. A couple of outlaws (David Arquette and Sid Haig) are killing people and moving about. The strangers' presence in the small town of Bright Hope eleven days later raises the suspicions of sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) and his "back-up deputy" Chicory (Richard Jenkins).

"Bone Tomahawk" stars Kurt Russell as Sheriff Franklin Hunt, who leads a search pary into a Troglodyte country to rescue a pair of abductees.

The Sheriff shoots one of the killers in the leg, which requires Samantha O'Dwyer (Lili Simmons), the medically trained wife of Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson), who's unhappily recovering from a roof fall, to attend to the suspect in prison. While there, the outlaw and Samantha are abducted by Troglodytes, a savage group of cannibal cave dwellers whom even other Indians want nothing to do with.

Sheriff Hunt and Chicory go out searching for the missing parties and they are joined by John Brooder (Matthew Fox), a trigger-happy braggart certain of his prowess and proud of his unrivaled Indian kill count. Also along for the journey is the injured Mr. O'Dwyer, who is determined to rescue his wife.

Bone Tomahawk arrests with its characters and atmosphere. Tension builds as these four men embark upon the unknown, suspicious of danger and to some degree not entirely pleased with each other's company. Brooder puts off his party with condescension and his policy of drawing his gun before thinking. Another highlight is the amusing interaction between the sheriff and his slow, widowed deputy, as they discuss everything from flea circuses to how to read in the bathtub without making a mess of the book.

Back-up deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins), Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell), and seasoned marksman John Brooder (Matthew Fox) approach the Troglodytes' cave in "Bone Tomahawk."

Though the plot is not established as the only force of interest,
you can tell it is leading somewhere and that somewhere is in the frightening cave lair of these practically otherworldly Troglodytes. As in Tarantino's westerns, we are aware of the conflict brewing and the inevitability of bloodshed. Zahler doesn't go for record quantities of blood, instead disarming with sounds and images too gruesome to take head on, involving the Troglodytes' powerful titular weapon and their inhumane practices.

Such climactic content may put off those who have enjoyed the thoughtful slow boil leading up to it. But it's impossible for some brutality to undo the virtue that Zahler's film consistently shows for close to two hours.

Despite the brevity of his filmography, Zahler has attracted a talented cast here and he draws strong performances from all of them, especially Russell (who's better here than he is in Hateful Eight), the reliably interesting Jenkins (the Indie Spirit's Supporting Actor nominee), range-extending Wilson, and Fox, who's never before been this compelling a presence.

Wikipedia and IMDb classify the movie as a horror film, which seems like a stretch, especially until we arrive at the climax for that finale. Even so, the film, absolutely a western first and foremost, remains unconventional, unpredictable, and capable of frequently disarming.

Just two months after starting its too small-to-track theatrical run, Bone Tomahawk hit home video this week in an unusually substantial DVD and Blu-ray release from RLJ Entertainment.

Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 29, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.96 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Zahler's background in cinematography and the nature of the film ensure that Bone Tomahawk has a more interesting look than most new films. The 2.40:1 visuals are solid in RLJ Entertainment's Blu-ray transfer. They are well complemented by a fine 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack and English SDH subtitles you might need to consult on occasion.

The Making of "Bone Tomahawk" supplies behind-the-scenes footage. A deleted scene between the O'Dwyers (Lili Simmons and Patrick Wilson) also qualifies as an alternate ending.


The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "The Making of Bone Tomahawk", a fairly ordinary 10-minute featurette that gathers cast and crew comments along with movie clips and some behind-the-scenes looks.

Next up comes a single deleted scene (2:30) that would have featured at the end of the movie, which changes life's course for those still living at the end.

Patrick Wilson answers a question while writer-director S. Craig Zahler looks on in the Director & Cast Q & A session at Fantastic Fest. Kurt Russell thinks you should sit down on the Bone Tomahawk Blu-ray main menu.

The longest extra is Q & A session with the director and cast at Fantastic Fest (34:40) this past October. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler gives some opening remarks,
then returns post-screening with Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, and a pair of producers. They're all in good spirits as they talk about Kurt Russell's facial hair, Dark Blue and the use of practical make-up effects.

A poster gallery shows off seven one-sheet designs for the movie and its characters.

Finally, Bone Tomahawk's trailer (2:37) is kindly preserved, something you can't always take for granted these days.

The disc opens with trailers for Dark Was the Night, Pay the Ghost, and Odd Thomas, none of which is accessible by menu.

The menu plays some distinctive horn score over a looped montage. The Region A disc doesn't support bookmarks but does resume unfinished playback.

The side-snapped keepcase is topped by a glossy, embossed slipcover.

Injured but determined, Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) ambles on in an effort to rescue his wife.


Bone Tomahawk is a lot better than its fringe theatrical release would indicate. This savory western offers compelling characters, dialogue, and settings, all of which are strong enough to compensate for some unnecessarily gruesome violence and a kind of unremarkable story.

RLJ's Blu-ray offers solid picture and sound plus a good assortment of bonus features. It's worth a look!

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Related Reviews:
Kurt Russell: The Hateful Eight • Tombstone • The Art of the Steal • Escape from New York • Vanilla Sky
Patrick Wilson: Insidious • Space Station 76 • The Conjuring • Young Adult • The Switch
Richard Jenkins: The Cabin in the Woods • Lullaby • Jack Reacher • Dear John • Step Brothers
Matthew Fox: Vantage Point • Speed Racer | Westerns: Lawless • Once Upon a Time in the West • 3:10 to Yuma
New to Blu-ray: Heist

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Reviewed January 1, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Caliber Media, The Fyzz Facility, The Joker Films, Realmbuilder Productions, and RLJ Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.