Ted Geoghegan’s “Mohawk” is stellar and a very timely commentary on colonialism, manifest destiny, and the last gasp of what would become a slain race in the middle of a pointless war in 1814. “Mohawk” has a very unusual aesthetic to it, approaching audiences with a unique score, some great digital photography, and a tone that’s right down the line between horror and action. It has a lot to say about the unfair and cruel destruction of the Native American race, with an enemy we all have learned about but still known very little thanks to revisionist history.
“Mohawk” garners a small but very strong cast of performers, all of whom wage their own war of turf and pride in the middle of Native American land. Pulled in to a war that they want no part of, a tribe of Native Americans are approached by a British officer named Joshua to join the British in winning the conflict. The matriarch of the tribe wants no dealing and prefers neutrality, but she has a hard time reining in her daughter Oak and anxious son Calvin. They want her to decide once and for all, but the shit hits the fan when Calvin sneaks in to an American camp one night and sets it on fire.
The soldiers that did survive are now out for revenge, intent on bringing Calvin back, but Oak finds little option except fleeing with him and her secret lover Joshua. “Mohawk” is an intense and ruthless survival film with a focus on protagonists whose future is doomed, no matter what path they take. Along the way we learn Oak and Joshua’s affair has amounted to a pregnancy and it eventually becomes less a fight for survival, and more saving their unborn child. The question inevitably presents itself in to what kind of future they can have, especially as it becomes incredibly apparent that in this war for land and resources, the Native Americans are losing. Those that stay neutral are snuffed out, and the small fraction that choose sides have to fight in a war they either don’t believe in or know little about.
Geoghegan works well with the limited scenery and small cast, especially Kaniehtiio Horn as Oka, whose performance is a clear stand out. Among her dying people, Oak is indicative of an unclear future, and she struggles to maintain her sanity and composure amidst endless violence and torture she witnesses and endures. Ezra Buzzington is also excellent as the slimy antagonist whose own self importance makes him a pure force to be reckoned with. “Mohawk” is a memorable amalgam of sub-genres with action, revenge, drama, a hint of the supernatural, and some very volatile political commentary. It deserves to be celebrated by genre fans who appreciate thought provoking fare.