Mohawk

 

 

I had the fortune to be present at the Fantasia International Film Festival’s world premiere of Mohawk, a bloody historical grindhouse revenge tale set in brutal War of 1812 and played to the tune of slasher revenge flicks of old. The Mohawk nation sits in a precarious political position sandwiched between the colliding British and American empires, and a ragtag trio attempts to warn them: the Americans will never respect the treaties they’ve made and will only bring ruin. This rich storytelling soil is hardly sown, however, and the focus of the film almost immediately becomes a caricature laden band of American soldiers hunting down (in the most savage fashions possible) a ragtag trio.

 

Mohawk stomps through some delicate moral territory. One of the protagonists is responsible for a massacre in order to spur the Mohawk nation into action. This prompts a retaliatory hunt by American soldiers, whose moral high ground evaporates as they torture in order to lure back their escaping prey. In the progress of this lure, a younger member of the Americans is killed, and revealed to be the son of their wildly racist leader. He strips naked to shed tears for the loss of his son.

 

Deeper characterizations never save the Americans from being anything other than caricature villains. There are some standout performances here, by the WWF’s Jon Huber (some genuinely funny moments) and especially from Ezra Buzzington whose dialed-up-to-11 supervillainy begins as comic but ends as memorably, remorselessly malicious. His performance gives the inevitable final showdown the weight it needs.

 

The outdoor shots look fantastic.  As the hunters and hunted get lost in the deep woods of the northeast the land itself becomes a kind of unmentioned menace, where exhaustion and hunger and mosquitoes are a kind of 3rd player in the hunt.  The camera at least loves the outdoors.

 

But forget about all that.  This is not a thoughtful piece about the politics of racist colonial early America. This is a dirty, bloody, self-aware revenge tale. It’s at its best when it shows that it knows it. Viewers not excited for gruesome kill shots, torture scenes and jovial evil had best look elsewhere. For those of us who are, though, what a treat!

 

 

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