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bone-tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is the real deal: a gritty, unapologetic – or, anyway, not overly apologetic – portrait of a time when western civilization’s future was secured with sacrifice and with blood and when subhuman savagery met with the requisite repercussions. Patrick Wilson, in a winning and physically demanding role, plays Arthur O’Dwyer, an injured cowboy whose broken leg is the last thing on his mind when wife Samantha (Lili Simmons) is abducted by “troglodytes” – a pack of cannibalistic cave-dwelling Indians straight out of a horror movie.

Joining O’Dwyer on the ride into savage territory to rescue Samantha are rock-solid Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell, more mature but just as badass as in Tombstone), gentleman Indian killer Mr. Brooder (Matthew Fox, who thankfully has a more dignified role than as the honky serial killer hunted by Madea in Alex Cross), and elderly, slow-witted backup deputy Chicory (Killing Them Softly’s Richard Jenkins, filling the Walter Brennan type sidekick role). Kurt Russell is Bone Tomahawk’s star power, but Jenkins practically steals the movie with his endearingly goofy interpretation of Chicory. Lili Simmons is perhaps never entirely convincing as a woman of the nineteenth century; but every member of the ensemble cast is entitled to ample applause.

Bone Tomahawk is as fine a contribution to the western genre as the present century has made; but viewers hoping for something as wholesome as Shane or even The Searchers are likely to find that Bone Tomahawk makes some fairly extreme demands on audience stomachs with its graphic and gory depictions of the troglodytes’ atrocities. This astounding outing was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, a man whose slim résumé would hardly suggest that his first movie as a director would be such an undisputable masterpiece. “I believe those fleas are alive – and talented,” Chicory says in fond remembrance of a flea circus he once attended; and similar words could characterize this grumpy reviewer’s experience of watching Bone Tomahawk – which, if nothing else, demonstrates that the perverted parasites of the movie industry can from time to time still create a thing of actual beauty and earn the money they grab from the goyim.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Bone Tomahawk is well worth seeing and:

4. Flat-Earther! The flatness of the terrain crossed by the posse causes Chicory to give voice to his doubt about the roundness of the planet.

3. Pro-marriage. Bone Tomahawk presents multiple touching examples of loving marriages. It is O’Dwyer’s devotion to his wife that drives him to drag himself to the end of his adventure.

2. Christian. Characters dismissive of faith are disproportionately the ones who meet with unpleasant ends. “You can always sell ‘em to some idiot,” doomed thief David Arquette says in defense of the Bible. The likable Chicory is a Christian, as is O’Dwyer, who calls on God for strength as he drags his tired body toward what threatens to be a suicidal raid on the troglodytes’ lair. “This is what I prayed my whole life for – for help right now.” He crosses himself on finding his wife still alive, his faith in God’s existence seeming to have been confirmed. Sid Haig’s bandit, who hypocritically demands that the Bible be treated with respect while he goes about cutting sleeping men’s throats and steals their possessions, does, however, illustrate that mere profession of Christianity is no definite indication of merit.

1. Racist! The only advantage the “four doomed men” of the posse have against the troglodytes, Sheriff Hunt announces, is that they are smarter than the subhumans. The cave-dwellers are grotesque, with animal bone piercings, and, in addition to being cannibals, blind and incapacitate their females, using them only for reproduction. This is implicitly contrasted with the comparatively high standing women have enjoyed in western civilization. The men of the frontier town of Bright Hope are respectful toward Mrs. O’Dwyer, who has even been able to study medicine and doctor the locals. Women of the twenty-first century, Bone Tomahawk would seem to suggest, would probably not be wise in welcoming white men’s eclipse in the world. Perhaps to mitigate the white-vs.-brown premise, the troglodytes appear smeared in a whitish clay pigment; while, in another ass-covering gesture, the movie includes a distinguished Indian character called “The Professor” (Fargo Season 2’s Zahn McClarnon) who explains that the troglodytes are inbred and “something else entirely” from typical Native Americans.

Brooder, who remains an arrogant but nonetheless likable character throughout the film, shoots two Mexicans who approach the posse’s camp, suspecting them of being the scouts for a raid. “Mr. Brooder just educated two Mexicans on the meaning of Manifest Destiny,” Chicory explains to O’Dwyer, who asks if they deserved it. “I don’t know,” Chicory answers with meaningful ambiguity. An ethnomasochist in the audience at a question-and-answer session with the cast and crew (included on the DVD as an extra) refers to Brooder as a psychopath; but nothing whatsoever in the film suggests this. Brooder is a good and ultimately selfless man in spite of what Chicory anachronistically characterizes as his “bigotry”. There is an awareness and an appreciation in Bone Tomahawk that in the construction of civilizations, unpleasant actions must sometimes be taken so that the greater good can be secured.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Tyler Perry, wearing men’s clothes for a change, plays the titular Detroit police detective in this adequate serial killer thriller.  Cross, along with partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), comes up against a worthy adversary in a sadistic assassin (Matthew Fox) dubbed “Picasso” for his eccentricity of leaving charcoal drawings as signature clues.  The leads are serviceable, with Fox turning in an intense performance, but the script is uninteresting.  Neither woefully dull nor particularly memorable, Alex Cross is a passable evening’s diversion, but hardly essential action viewing.  It earns 3 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Alex Cross is:

12. Anti-corporate/philanthropy-skeptical.  European magnate Monsieur Mercier (Jean Reno), who poses as the industrial savior of Detroit, is actually just a criminal and murderer.

11. Anti-drug.  Mercier’s assistant is a drug addict.

10. State-skeptical/ambivalent.  The police chief (John McGinley) is running for mayor and so speaks in platitudes and thinks only of what will benefit him politically rather than what will protect the citizens.  The federal government, however, receives an endorsement when Cross and Tommy decide to apply for gigs with the FBI.

9. Anti-military/anti-torture.  Cross, going by the killer’s refinement of torture techniques, guesses that Picasso is ex-military.  “Inflicting pain is a crucial part of my true calling,” the killer says later, seeming to validate Cross’s hypothesis.

8. Feminist.  When Tommy surmises from a victim’s lavish lifestyle that the woman must have had a rich man in her life, his tough girlfriend/colleague Monica (Rachel Nichols) objects, “Is that your only idea for how a woman could get money?”  “It was very sexy to be saved by a beautiful woman,” one of the Germans (Werner Daehn) flirts.

7. Pro-police.  With the exception of top brass, policemen are honest and hardworking.

6. Pro-vigilante.  Notwithstanding the above, Cross and Tommy find it necessary to throw out the rulebook and do things their own way, breaking into a station at night and stealing evidence.  Cross understandably has personally motivated vengeance in mind after his wife is killed.

5. Christian.  Cross’s name suggests the special relationship of blacks with God and Christian suffering, and the character is an appropriately spiritual man, retreating to a chapel for meditation after the death of his wife.  Blacks enjoy singing a hymn at a funeral (“I sing because I’m free” – from slavery, presumably, in black-run Detroit).

4. Multiculturalist.  Alex Cross celebrates the contributions to law enforcement of blacks, other minorities, women, and even whites.  The friendship the protagonist shares with partner Tommy Kane handily demonstrates the multiculturalist ideal of color-blind brotherhood.  (Together they eat at McDonald’s, probably worthy of their patronage and of mention in the film because of its progressive 365Black promotion.)  Detroit appears as a mostly orderly and suprisingly Caucasian multicultural city.  Mrs. Cross (Carmen Ejogo) even puts in an endorsement for the city’s post-apocalyptic public schools when she voices reluctance to move because it would mean taking her children out of Detroit’s public institutions of learning.  “I have no idea what the public school system is like in D.C.,” she worries.  (Could it be worse?)  Glimpses of the actual Detroit occur, however, in a few ruined buildings and abandoned theaters like the Michigan Palace, once home to rock bands like Iggy and the Stooges, but now just a picturesque parking garage.  Also, an indication of the city’s real crime problem is given when Tommy says, “Witnesses?  This is Detroit.  Nobody’s sayin’ anything.”

3. Anti-white male.  Apart from Tommy, white men are either dishonest, incompetent, cowardly, rude, or psychotic.  The white male as usual furnishes the profile of America’s typical terrorist threat.  Picasso’s close haircut also reminds viewers to be aware of the undying skinhead menace.  A group of German security guards illustrates the tight-assed, “Ja wohl”-spitting constipation of personality to which whites are prone when left to themselves on whole continents for centuries (and also the inferiority of private security contractors to public authorities like Cross).

2. Pro-family/pro-marriage.  Cross is a model husband and father.

1. Black supremacist.  Alex Cross is the sort of character one only encounters in the movies: the hyper-intelligent, cultured, spiritual, upstanding black citizen, family man, badass, invaluable public servant, and super-sleuth who could probably catch Sherlock Holmes napping on the job.  Alex Cross is the paragon Shaft only dreams of emulating, a character who exists not in any recognizable reality, but solely for the purpose of salving blacks’ insecurities as to what they like to imagine is their superiority in every category of human or animal endeavor.  He inhabits a fantasy world in which black people practice at the piano, play chess, eat in fancy restaurants, and respectfully say, “Yes, Ma’am” to their elders.  Also possessed of Lecter-like superhuman senses that enable him, through faint odors or minute stains, to divine everything his wife has eaten or what errands she has run during her day, Cross is uniquely suited to perfectly, almost psychically, reconstruct crime scenes.  “It’s like working with sixth-graders with you two,” he tells colleagues.  One assumes that his penis is also quite large when he makes a condescending reference to Tommy’s “little chip”.  An establishing shot of a sculpture of the Madonna creates a parallel between Cross’s murdered pregnant wife and the mother of Jesus, hinting that the hero, if not for the evil meddling of his white antagonist, might have fathered a new messiah, which in turn would suggest that Cross, the son-sacrificing black man, is, as Jeremiah Wright would aver, the manifestation of God on Earth.

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