Rob’s review published on Letterboxd:
We open with a throat cutting with a dull knife. So: the western version of Airplane! then.
In it's own way, this reminds me of early Tarantino films. It's dialogue heavy and stylized, but it doesn't keep the plot from moving forward, albeit at a steady pace.
The town of Bright Hope is like a space station; it has the accoutrements of civilization, but it's on a skeleton crew, isolated, and surrounded by hostiles of all kinds. Something has gotten in and taken some of the residents. They think they know what it is... but I'm guessing they're very, very wrong.
This is a monster movie wrapped in a western, and as someone who suffered through Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Cowboys and Aliens in the 21st Century, I am for this concept, done right.
The dialogue and characterizations here are solid. By the time we get to the first campsite, we know these guys, and what they're like. And I have no idea whether the dialogue is actually period accurate or not, nor do I care. Like the dialogue in Deadwood, it all FEELS right, and that's what matters.
The storytelling is smart. We spend a lot of time with these guys in a standard western, with all the attendant regular, non-cannibal dangers, like horse thievery. In a world with cell phones and paved roads, it's easy to forget that under the right circumstances, with no ride, you're dead. And that's if your damn busted leg doesn't rot off. Based on what I'm seeing here, John Wayne was a wuss. But I might be losing the narrative.
This is a really good cast. Richard Jenkins is personable and funny, Matthew Fox is a prototypical ugly American, Patrick Wilson is more believable as a determined, bereaved husband than he is a fucking fish king and Kurt Russell, well... the owner of my local comic store asked we regulars what movie star we would pick if we could only watch their movies for the rest of our lives? Yeah.
Huh. Now that we're in the troglodytes' cave, I am four square on the side of John Wayne in The Searchers. Manifest Destiny forever. Exterminate all the brutes. Goldwater: in your heart, you know he's right. Please don't eat my junk. I use it for stuff.
That's the weird thing about this flick: this is as old school a western as you can get. It's cowboys and indians, and the indians are savages, and it is good and right and true to kill them. And within the scope of the story we are given, that feeling is correct... but I still feel a little bit conflicted about it. Sure, writer / director S. Craig Zahler gives us the out of showing us a "civilized" native up front to warn us about the troglodytes, but still.
That said: I guess it's hard to get too worked up over a story about fighting your way out of a community of cannibals. If it was okay in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to say it's not okay here would just be provincial and racist.
Bottom line: I dug this movie a lot. It's hard to call it fun, but I really liked.