Rosamund Pike shows us that, when pushed to their limits, women can be tough, but men are still a hell of a lot tougher. Well, they’re men after all. And in those days there was no such thing as soy face.
If you’ve had this on your to watch list for a while it might be time to check it out. Christian Bale plays Captain Joseph J. Blocker, an army legend who’s carved a reputation for himself as one of the best at hunting down and killing the native American population. When he’s about to call it a day and collect his pension he’s tasked with one last job by the army: escorting the dying Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a Cheyenne Indian, back to his homeland to live out his final days in peace on a reservation. He reluctantly accepts the mission, hand picks his best men, and so begins a long, harrowing journey across dangerous, bloodstained territory. Along the the way his party encounters Rosalee Quaid (Pike), a woman who’s family was murdered by a band of bloodthirsty Comanches, who soon attack Blocker and his men, forcing them to team up with Yellow Hawk in order to survive. Although initially he hates his old adversary, in time, Blocker begins to see his charges in a different light, and meanwhile his best friend and fellow old soldier struggles to overcome his own guilt for their past mistreatment and mass-murder of the indigenous people.
If you like Unforgiven and Bone Tomahawk you’ll probably find this pretty enjoyable, given that it kind of blends the two. The glowering, growling Bale is brilliant and looks the part with his bushy moustache and the whole cast do a great job. The film is as brutal as the old west must have been. It’s not just the natives you had to look out for – Blocker and his crew encounter a rogues gallery of dangerous and amoral characters along the way. I’ve recently been watching Westworld, or trying to, and this was a welcome tonic to that superficial, pseudo-intellectual crap. Okay, I get it, Westworld is alright and it’s not really a western anyway. I digress. Hotiles is as gritty and manly as a true western should be. It’s dark, brooding and filled with haggard, brutal men reflecting on their misdeeds and pondering the question of redemption. It also presents a hopeful message that we might just be able to overcome our differences, find common ground and, if nothing else, band together to defeat a common enemy when death is lurking behind every tree and a rattle snake is hiding under every rock.
One minor criticism, the pacing is a little uneven. When the heroes overcome one enemy, another antagonist is introduced and this happens a couple of times so that the film feels like it’s made up of about three separate 40 minute episodes, although with one overarching story arc. The pacing issues didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film, however. Hostiles filled up two hours perfectly. This is a beautifully shot, intelligent, poignant and brutal bloody western for fans of manly movies everywhere. This is a film I would definitely watch again.
8 out of 10