‘Bone Tomahawk’ Director S. Craig Zahler Saw ‘The Revenant’ And Hated It

Bone Tomahawk is often referred to as “the other Kurt Russell western from 2015,” the implication being that the more famous western is The Hateful Eight from high-profile director Quentin Tarantino.

As if that isn’t challenging enough for the well-reviewed film’s reputation, it is also thought of in a somewhat lower class than the third big western, Oscar front runner The Revenant, no doubt in part because of the latter’s $135 million budget.

Bone Tomahawk managed to capture performances from Russell, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox, but its $1.8 million budget was comparatively minuscule to that of its Leonardo DiCaprio-starring, Alejandro G. Iñárritu-directed competition.

No surprise there.

DiCaprio is one of the biggest A-list stars in Hollywood, and Iñárritu already has one Academy Award under his belt for Birdman.

When the two films are stacked up against one another, Bone Tomahawk gives a very good account of itself commanding 88 percent on the critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to The Revenant‘s 82 percent.

(The Hateful Eight is a distant third with 75 percent.)

If you talk to Zahler about it, as Deadline recently did, one thing becomes clear: he’s not crazy about either film, and when it comes to The Revenant, he outright hated it.

Just so there is no question or “out-of-context” claims later on, here are his exact words from the Deadline interview.

“My view on it is, The Revenant got made, Leonardo DiCaprio is a huge star and Iñárritu is a big director. I think that movie is probably the single worst movie I’ve seen in the last five years and just totally empty and terrible and didactic. And it’s just awful — lacking humor and characterization, and anything I ever want to see in a movie. But that movie got made because there are two powerhouses there.”

Zahler also said that The Hateful Eight “only got made because it’s Quentin Tarantino and he can get stuff done,” adding that “it’s far from my favorite picture of his.”

“I just thought, in general, a lot of the performances were too theatrical for my taste, but the atmosphere was good and I enjoyed some of the plotting,” he said.

It would be easy to dismiss Zahler’s comments as sour grapes or mean-spirited self promotion if not for the fact that Bone Tomahawk does appear to be winning over its fans in droves, despite being relegated to a freebie slot on Amazon Prime with not even a limited theatrical run to boast about.

Meanwhile, The Revenant has pulled in massive numbers for a western with a $162 million worldwide take, thrusting it into the black despite the bloated budget. The Hateful Eight has also managed to smoke out $86 million worldwide against a budget of $44 million.

The films are not as well-reviewed as Bone Tomahawk, but they are much bigger financial successes. Zahler’s effort has worked in the opposite direction from his better-known competition, attracting the talent to it instead of existing only because of the talent.

Now the question remains: will Zahler’s comments have a negative backlash on the first-time director? While it could, it’s likely to have the opposite effect. Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk is self-assured and well-liked in spite of its limitations. In it, you can see the talent of a veteran director, and that has opened new doors for him.

It’s very likely based on the strength of Bone Tomahawk that his next feature could draw interest from more top-tier Hollywood stars — perhaps even a DiCaprio.

But what do you think, readers?

Did S. Craig Zahler make a mistake by openly dissing The Revenant, and do you think that Bone Tomahawk was the better film? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Image via Bone Tomahawk screen grab]

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