“Mohawk” is an indie period piece that’s somewhat like life on the frontier of the War of 1814 — “nasty, brutish and short.”
A nonsensical, malnourished tale of vengeance and horror, it’s set in the Mohawk nation, where that warrior tribe, decimated by the American Revolution and the intervening years, has decided to stay neutral in this latest of the “Cousins Wars” between Britain and her former colony, the United States.
The director of “We Are Still Here” wraps a slasher film in Mohawk and Army garb for an odyssey about a meddling Brit (Eamon Farren), his agitated Mohawk warrior friend (Justin Rain), and the woman they share — Okwaho (Kaniehtiio Horn).
Joshua Pinsmail (Farren) is trying to talk Mohawk elders into joining the fight, late in the war (1814) in “Last of the Mohicans” country — upstate New York.
“You are already dying…Trust me. Side with King George. I am here, more will follow.”
Calvin Two Rivers (Rain) has made up his mind, and figures he can trigger a conflagration with just a murder or two. When the three of them run afoul of an Army patrol, which makes an international incident even more likely.
As the shots ring out and knives flash, the crazed Captain Holt (Ezra Buzzington) makes it his mission to bring these “murderous redskins” to heel, to get them back to Fort George or “The Mission,” whichever outpost of civilization shows up first.
Lost in these woods, chasing the Indian and her two lovers, it’s anybody’s guess where they’ll end up.
“I will drag that buck back to Fort George by his buckskin!”
“Mohawk” is a classic over-reaching film festival movie, not really fit for theatrical release. It was shot on the cheap with middling, no name actors, passable costumes, vivid makeup, bloody effects and sharp video cinematography that lacks texture, depth of field and cinematic quality. It looks cheap, as if most every scene was shot at exactly the same hour of the day.
The parkland locations –waterfalls, rivers and the like — are striking. But too many shoot-outs and debates were shot in the neat medium-growth rows of a pine tree plantation.
For too many moments lack even a hint of logic, but here’s one. Walking into an abandoned outpost, the cook fire and candles are still burning. The smoke trails straight up into the sky, not a hint of wind. And yet there’s a bad Western style wooden door swinging, rattling and thumping, open and closed, in this non-existent breeze.
The better to draw the protagonists into the one room that will tell them “What happened here?”
The bigger theme, expressed in the murderous visions of Okwaho, is of a demonic land stained with blood doomed to forever be home to the horror of racial strife. A deer-skull masked demon foretells it. And the American officer (Jack Gwaltney) who questions the sneaky Brit Pinsmail puts it out there, plain and simple.
“I’m surprised that a man of your perceived heritage would bear arms against his fellow American patriots” whilst in the company of savages.
There’s no effort to show Indians communicating in Mohawk, or even affect a broken-English accent. The dialogue has the odd profane anachronism, and a certain half-hearted idealization of the Mohawk.
“In my experience, it is the white man who does the scalping.”
The weapons are wounds are realistic, the fights reasonably well-staged, but little costume details and the “map” the Captain consults scream “amateurs.”
Whatever ideas “Mohawk” had behind it, whatever the filmmaker saw in the cast, especially Ms. Horn (think Grace Slick circa “White Rabbit”) not much of a movie came out of the effort.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence
Cast: Kaniehtiio Horn, Eamon Farren, Justin Rain, Ezra Buzzington, Noah Segan, Ian Collewtti, Robert Longstreet, Jonathan Huber, Sheri Foster, David La Haye
Credits:Directed by Ted Geoghegan script by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix. A Dark Sky release.
Running time: 1:32