During the final years of the conflict now known as “The War of 1812” between the United States and the United Kingdom, we see that in the woods of New York, the Mohawk tribe still stays neutral in the war, despite having suffered several casualties at the hands of the American soldiers. Oak and Calvin Two Rivers, a couple of young Mohawk warriors, try to convince their elders to accept the offer made by Joshua, an emissary from England and to side with the British army. Seeing that the elders maintain their decision to stay neutral in the conflict, Calvin decides to attack on his own an American camp while the soldiers sleeps, but a small group of soldiers survive and begin to hunt him down. This puts not only Oak and Joshua in immediate danger, but also the whole tribe, since under the excuse of seeking justice the American soldiers will not hesitate to kill any native they can find in their path.
“Mohawk” is the new film directed by Ted Geoghegan (“We Are Still Here”) and this time he leaves the ghost stories on the side to bring us a cruel and violent revenge story, set in a part of the history of the United States that most Americans prefer not to talk about too often. Seeing the political environment that we live in today, and with racism and intolerance still very present, “Mohawk” makes us wonder if we have really advanced that much in the last 200 years, or if at least are we treating the native American communities any better. (BTW, the film makes an honorable mention to the Standing Rock’s resistance movement).
While is understandable that we side with Oak, Calvin and Joshua from the beginning, I thought that some of the soldiers were very interesting characters. Far from just getting the redneck stereotypes, we see an skilled and cunning tracker, a gigantic soldier eager to fight despite sporting a leg brace, and a interpreter that rather to avoid any violence if possible, all of them commanded by a sadistic (recently promoted) Colonel named Holt, who has vowed to avenge the soldiers killed by Calvin, even if he has to sacrifice his remaining men in order to do so. While I though that the acting overall was very good, Ezra Buzzington definitely steals the show with his performance as Holt, giving him a lot of depth and not just portraying the typical plain bad guy.
The film has a good pace and uses its run time effectively, and very quickly we can get to know enough of Oak and her love triangle with Calvin and Joshua (Don’t worry, this never turns into a romantic drama) and also we see that the young warrior is constantly having visions of an entity using a skull as a mask. Is it a message from her ancestors? Is it the spirit in the woods guiding her? the only way to know is keep watching. I want to point out that the film pulls no punches when is time to show us the violence that was common in those days, and although it never falls into excess or goes for the easy shock factor, we get to see several scenes of torture and violence that can makes us feel uneasy.
Unfortunately, there are also some things that bothered me on the film. This is something that seems not to bother a lot of people, but it is a problem for me: The over usage of shots with hand-held camera or like I normally call them the “Shaky Drunken Camera”. While lately I have tried to be more tolerant with those scenes where it seems that the camera can’t stay still even when there is not a lot of action going on, a lot of the times it distracts me and actually takes me out of the movie. I can handle it when these shots are used shortly and far in between, but there are films that really abuse that technique and I end up tuning out. That being said, in this film there are a lot of scenes where the camera was constantly jumping around and I could not fully enjoy the action. I can understand that sometimes this technique comes out of necessity due budget or lighting issues, but, for the sake of being fair to all those films that I have reviewed and have criticized for abusing those shots, I needed to point it out. If by any chance you have no problems with that camera work, ignore the previous rant and enjoy the film, because honestly, it is very good.
While I liked how the movie turns into a game of cat and mouse that constantly keeps turning the tables on the players, where both Oak and Holt keep having losses and victories each time they encounter and fight each other, I found strange how frequently characters of both sides suddenly appear in front the enemy and connect a critical hit, without the other person even noticing he/she was there. That stuck out to me a lot, specially because the woods where most of the movie takes place do not have trees that big or tick, nor deep bushes where a person could easily hide and wait for the perfect moment to attack, or even approach his/her target without being detected. While I could believe that both Oak and Calvin could have that skill since the woods was their home (and yes, because they are Native Americans, so sue me) I could not understand why the soldiers seemed to have that ability too, and they actually use it several times during the film…. They even ambush the elders at some point (is in the trailer, so don’t tell me I spoiled it for you).
In conclusion: “Mohawk” is a violent film that manages to mix action, drama, thriller and yes, even horror with a nice bloody revenge twist. It also has interesting characters and several memorable scenes. While is clear that this film is not for just everyone, I recommend to watch it at least twice and reflect on the messages that are sent between the lines (without being preachy) about the monster that most of us have inside and even to this day is present and waiting to raise hell.
Directed by Ted Geoghegan, and co-written with Grady Hendrix, “Mohawk” cast consists of Kaniehtiio Horn (Hemlock Grove), Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks: The Return), Justin Rain (Fear The Walking Dead), Ezra Buzzington (The Hill Have Eyes remake, Fight Club) Noah Segan (Looper, Dead girl), Ian Colletti (Preacher), Robert Longstreet, Jon Huber A.K.A “Luke Harper”, Jack Gwaltney and Sheri Foster.
“Mohawk” is now available on Bluray and VOD platforms.