Friday, March 2, 2018

America's Native American problem, circa 1814, in Ted Geoghegan's MOHAWK

The War of 1812 is not used as a backdrop for all that many movies -- America's Revolutionary War gets much more screen and cable-TV time -- so it's rather nice to see this nearly three-year war lend its muted history to MOHAWK, the new film from Ted Geoghegan, who both directed it and co-wrote it (with Grady Hendrix).

Mr Geoghegan's (the movie-maker is shown below) first film foray, We Are Still Here, was a genre piece (haunted-house horror) and so is his new one -- except in this case, his movie is a genre-jumper/masher.

Part western, part military vs the Indians, part guilt trip regarding America's horrendous treatment of Native Americans back in the day (it's little better now: we've wiped most of them out and stripped the rest of their lands, so we need only make their current lives as miserable as possible), and part (sort-of) supernatural goings-on, the movie manages to blend all these with a little history, too, and Geoghagen dishes this out with just enough flair to pass muster.

The director handles some of his action scenes quite well, but his forays into suspense and expectation drag too much and may have you muttering, "Get on with it!"  Still, as Native American guilt-trips go, this one is infinitely better than the recent molasses-slow, way-too-long and uber-pretentious Hostiles.

Geoghegan has cast his film well, too, with its three leads giving impressive performances and supporting players generally good, as well. Those leads would include Ezra Buzzington (above, left) and Kaniehtiio Horn (below, right) as, respectively, military and Indian adversaries, while Eamon Farren makes a handsome, sexy almost-hero, as the Britisher trying to engage the Indians into fighting the Americans.

The film takes place mostly in yet another naughty forest which seems to have maybe supernatural powers -- we've just seen two more of these in The Ritual and They Remain -- but the director mines the place for some beauty as well as for blood, gore and creepiness. (That's Jon Huber, wrestler-turned-actor, shown below.)

My biggest question about the film, however, lies in why this story needed any supernatural element attached to it at all? It could have worked quite nicely as just an action/western. yet the other worldliness begins early on and then is left at the starting gate and only seems to reappear very late in the game. Ms Horn does turn into something of a wonder woman, I guess, which is utterly unbelievable unless you grant her that supernatural overlay.

As with all these current super-hero movies, magical powers seem to be the only way we have of righting the world's many wrongs. Too bad. My other caveat has to do with the costume that our heroine wears throughout. While it may have been researched and found to be authentic, it still looks so "modern" (not only in the design but in the choice of fabrics) as to be faintly ridiculous.

From Dark Sky Films and running a little too long even at only 92 minutes, Mohawk opens today, Friday, March 2, in seven cities -- before unfurling in other parts of the country in the weeks to come. Click here and scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters. And if you're not near these particular cities, the film is also playing simultaneously via VOD and HD digital.

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