Kings of the Sun is unique for the time in that it doesn’t feature a single “white man” character. There’s no invading Europeans with their fancy coats, silver tongues and daggers behind their backs. But hang about you cry, neither did Apocalypto (excluding the end). Maybe so, but Kings of the Sun takes it to the extreme by having not one, not two, but three different tribes of natives all fighting each other. It is the Gangs of New York of Mesoamerican inter-tribal gang warfare movies. But unlike Apocalypto there’s controversially no actual Native American actor on set here. And the lead is a Russian?! Something sure is afoot.
Basically Yul Brynner as Native American Chief Badass falls for British/Mayan Princess
There’s a common theme that re-occurs in a lot of movies about native tribes and indigenous peoples; typically their way of life is seen as simple but pure. We never see them worrying about paying their VISA bill or figuring out what to watch of Netflix, but then again nor do we ever see what they use to wipe their asses with. However, it’s typically the arrival of the dreaded White Man who spoils everything. His greed and cunning subvert and trick the poor natives until they’ve been swindled from their land or left to rot in shallow graves. Mel Gibson’s (Expendables 3) 2006 effort, Apocalypto, seeks to subvert this theory.
When I catch him I will peel his skin and have him watch me wear it
The Mohawk tribe of Native Americans have had a bum deal. First they allied with us proud British Red Coats during the Revolutionary War and lost everything when we made a “tactical retreat” back to old Blighty. Second, it must be pretty depressing to have a rich and culturally significant history so often mistaken for a hairstyle preferred by punks (the musical types) and Robert De Niro enthusiasts. That’s like reducing the historical contributions of Australia to mere advancements in barbecue technology. Hopefully Ted Geoghegan’s (We Are Still Here) 2017 low budget horror actioner Mohawk will do the good people some justice.
Mega Powerz vs. The All-Americans
Back in the 90’s if you needed a distinctive Native American badass the choice would be obvious. You’d call Wes Studi. Now that might be an unfamiliar name to those not steeped in action cinema lore. But he’s one of those guys you’ve seen in loads of things loads of times. You’ll know the face. Most famously playing killer period Natives in Dances with Wolves and Last of the Mohicans, you might also recognize him as Sagat in Street Fighter or one of Pacino’s crew in Heat. He was even one of those blue dudes in Avatar. Cut to 2018 and he’s still at it. But now he’s old. And Hostiles reverses the roles. Instead of a scalp-collecting Cherokee brave he’s a silver-flecked chief just looking for some peace.
Batman vs. Last of the Mohicans