April 12, 2018

Blu-Ray Review: MOHAWK

Starring Kaniehtiio Horn, Eamon Farren, Justin Rain, Ezra Buzzington, Noah Segan, Ian Colletti, Robert Longstreet, Jon Huber, Sheri Foster. Directed by Ted Geoghegan. (2017/91 min).

One of the cool things about this position is I'm often given the opportunity to review films that would have otherwise escaped my radar. While I had heard of Mohawk, I knew very little about it, thus had no expectations going in.

That being said, Mohawk is unlike anything I've reviewed lately. Ultimately, that's a good thing.

In 1812, two Native Americans, Oak and Calvin, and British officer Joshua Pinsmail are a menage a trois. Joshua is trying to convince the Mohawk tribe (who've been neutral during the ongoing British-American conflict) to go on the offensive, joining the fight against colonial soldiers. After Calvin takes it onto himself to massacre everyone at a nearby soldier fort, the three end up on-the-run from a renegade platoon led by sadistic and increasingly unhinged Colonel Holt, who's hellbent on revenge. Much of the middle act is a bloody game of cat & mouse as the trio try to reach a nearby mission, where more Mohawks (including Oak's uncle) are hiding out.

"Tag! You're it!"
Elaborating much more would kill some of the surprising plot turns, but it's safe to say the story doesn't play out like you think it will (also a good thing). What begins as a tale of survival & revenge evolves into something bordering on ghostly and surreal, with an underlying reminder of the terrible treatment of Native Americans at the hands of colonists. We're given subtle clues that Calvin's initial attack on the fort - while seemingly unprovoked - wasn't completely unwarranted. The protagonists are not portrayed as saints, though, nor are the antagonists depicted as totally hateful (though Holt comes damn close).

Extreme house hunting.
Despite an obviously limited budget, Mohawk is both creatively ambitious and visually arresting. It addition to its deceptively simple story, director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) makes the most of his wilderness locations, managing to render them foreboding even during daylight. Though sort-of promoted as a horror film - some of it is pretty horrific - the focus is mostly on action, with a plenty of extremely brutal close-quarters conflict. Only during the logic-bending, intriguingly-ambiguous final act does the movie incorporate any real horror elements. The performances are decent, as well. Kaniehtiio Horn (a native Mohawk herself) stands out as Oak with a physical performance that's both sympathetic and menacing, while Ezra Buzzington engages in some enjoyable scenery chewing as her psychotic pursuer.

Fast-moving and unflinchingly violent, Mohawk offers a unique and unconventional vision of the tried & true revenge tale. It's also the kind of film that has the potential to be somewhat polarizing, creating interesting love-it-or-loathe-it debates. In the end, that's always a good thing, too.


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