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Review: Indie action thriller ‘Mohawk’ mines America’s bloody past for its horror

Kaniehtiio Horn in the movie "Mohawk."
(Dark Sky Films)

“Mohawk” writer-director Ted Geoghegan and co-writer Grady Hendrix are horror veterans, but their new movie traffics in a different kind of fear — more existential than supernatural. A revenge thriller tied to America’s grim past, “Mohawk” is a lean, gritty film, which mostly overcomes the limitations of its low budget thanks to focused plotting.

Kaniehtiio Horn stars as Oak, a Mohawk in an intimate relationship with two men: fellow tribesman Calvin Two Rivers (Justin Rain) and sympathetic Englishman Joshua Pinsmail (Eamon Farren). As the War of 1812 rages, the trio finds themselves hunted by American soldiers, in part because of their guerrilla activities, and in part because of who they are.

Ezra Buzzington makes a good villain as Hezekiah Holt, an officer who drives his men to pursue Oak and her lovers, risking everyone’s life. WWE Wrestler Harper (acting under his real name Jon Huber) is just as memorable as a burly militiaman with a gentle soul who questions a mission that seems pointlessly dangerous.

The quality of the acting in “Mohawk” varies, the costumes sometimes look cheap, and aside from scattered scenes in camps, forts and on the river, the forest scenery is nondescript.

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But Geoghegan and Hendrix keep the storytelling punchy, developing their characters through multiple scenes of angry men and women chasing each other. “Mohawk” is a gripping and despairing action picture, about how we can’t seem to stop trying to destroy those we distrust — including ourselves.

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‘Mohawk’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

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Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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