With all the brutality, and it is a brutal film set in the late 19th century frontier land, this really struck me as a film with a lot of heart and soul. What I remember most from it is not the horrific scenes but the bond that ties four men who form an impromptu posse tracking savage cannibals. The cannibals tracked a thief into the small town of Bright Hope and kidnapping the town doctor and deputy. There is a sharp contrast between the brutal savages and the honorable men tracking them. Kurt Russel, sporting that rugged Hateful Eight look, is the sheriff who really takes his duty seriously. He is honorable, he cares and will do his damnedest to return the captives alive at any cost. His deputy is played by Richard Jenkins who is sweet, loyal, never shuts up and is really funny. I actually cracked up a couple of times and I cannot forget his line about tea and soup…I had no clue this old dude was Richard Jenkins until the end credits. What a fantastic job he does here!
The other two are played by Mathew Fox and Patrick Wilson, and both are great in their roles. Wilson is the husband going after his wife (the doctor) and is already injured. So he is basically limping his way through desert landscapes, rocky hills and marauding random killers on a seriously messed up leg. Mathew Fox is the mysterious sharp shooter, plays by his own rules and code. He rubs everyone the wrong way, yet they trust and need him. It’s a fascinating movie with a splendid cast that revolves around the interactions of these four men and their dialogue. What action does happen is often quick and gruesome. Loyalty is valued, friendship and love do matter and who makes it out alive is really left up in the air until the last few moments. This looks like the directorial debut by S. Craig Zahler and he shows excellent potential with taking his time and developing great characters (he wrote it too). I’m looking forward to seeing more from him. Oh, yes it is worth repeating that Richard Jenkins is great in it.