Friday, April 27, 2018

MOHAWK (2017) (Dak Sky Films Blu-ray Review)

MOHAWK (2017) 
Label: Dark Sky Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Cast: Kaniehtiio Horn, Ezra Buzzington, Eamon Farren, Justin Rain, Ian Colletti, Noah Segan, Jonathan Huber, Robert Longstreet, Sheri Foster 

Director Ted Geoghegan's follow-up to his potently eerie and visceral debut film We Are Still Here (2015) finds the director in a familiar place, Upstate New York, but in a different era, this time going back to the late stages of the War of 1812, giving us a period revenge movie that, if not completely original, is at least offering us something we don't see everyday. It's in this setting we find a young Mohawk woman named Oak (Kaniehtiio Hora, TV's Hemlock Grove) who along with her companions, the Mohawk Calvin (Justin Rain) and British arms dealer Joshua (Eamon Farren, Twin Peaks: The Return), are engaged in a discussion with her tribal-elder mother Wetahawi (Sherri Foster, U-Turn) around a fire, with Joshua trying to persuade the elder to take up arms against the Americans, who while not at war with the Mohawk nation are killing them at an alarming rate.

The elder woman doesn't agree with this way of thinking, refusing to go to war, but that same night the young-blood warrior Calvin takes things into his own hands and slips into a nearby American camp, setting it on fire and killing many American soldiers. In the aftermath Joshua, Oak and Calvin find themselves hunted by a small band of vengeful American soldiers lead by the bloodthirsty Hezekiah Holt (Erza Buzzington, The Hills Have Eyes), his cadre of men include his own son Miles (Ian Colletti, TV's Preacher), the steampunk goggled Sherwood (Robert Longstreet), the lumbering Lachlan (WWE wrestler Jon Huber) and a translator named Yancy (Noah Segan, Dead Girl). 

I like that the characters here aren't completely black and white, the bloodlust of the American soldiers is not unwarranted, Calvin's actions were not exactly a honorable attack against an enemy, likewise the white men aren't wholly despicable people from the get-go, but they become implicit in their actions under the leadership of madman Holt, a man driven by revenge from the beginning, and whose craving for the blood of the Mohawk only grows when his own son falls victim during a skirmish in the woods.

All of the characters are short changed as far as development goes, both the good guys and the villains, as the film takes place over the course of what seems to be a night and day, we are thrown into the fray and it goes from zero to plenty of action and violence in no time at all. The lack of development didn't make it hard to root for the protagonists but it would have made it more deeply affecting if we had a bit more of it. Kaniehtiio Horn is a strong female lead in a stoic sort of way, her character's not one to offer a lot of dialogue but her actions are plentiful and powerful, but the love-triangle between her and her male companions could have stood a bit more fleshing out. The movie sacrifices fleshed-out characters in favor of streamlined storytelling, and maybe it's a credit to the film that I craved more, it doesn't spill all it's secrets, including a shaman/spiritual revenge from beyond the grave finale that caught me by surprise. 

The movie has some period faults to niggle at, some of the costuming looks a bit too new and contemporary, and the dialogue seems a bit too modern for the period to my ears, but the wooded area offers plenty of production value and the cast turn in decent performances across the board, plus the violence and mayhem hits hard, well-done. 

Audio/Video: Mohawk (2017) arrives on Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films framed in 2.40:1 widescreen, the digital-shot film look fantastic, the scope lensing capturing lots of the scenic Upstate New York woodlands with some nice depth and clarity, sometimes a bit too much clarity, some of the more modern fabrics look a bit too new at times. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles, the anachronistic synth score from Wojciech Golczewski (We Are Still Here) which despite at first taking me away from the film a bit I rather enjoyed once I went along with it.  

This release is surprisingly light on extras, the only disc extra is a, widescreen HD trailer for the film which is too bad, this film is ambitious, I would have enjoyed some insight into the writing and influences that went into this one from the director at the very least, a lack of a commentary is a missed opportunity. The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork.  

Special Features: 
- Trailer (2 min) HD

What we have here is a revenge film set during 1812 in a wooded area, it's a familiar story but the setting and era give a familiar story some new life, adding to that the element of colonialism and native American characters, but we still everything you'd expect from a bloody revenger, including moments of cringe-worthy gore and painful tortures being inflicted on characters, it doesn't make for a perfect film but it does enough different and enough of it is done right to make for an entertaining and briskly paced slice of hybrid movie making to keep me firmly on team Geoghegan as I anxiously await what he does next.   

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