Starring: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
Former US soldier Benjamin Ford (De Niro) now lives a solitary life in the Appalachian Mountains haunted by his memories of serving in several wars, in particular the Bosnian war. One day he meets a stranger in the woods near his home, a Serbian by the name of Emil Kovac (Travolta) who helps him when his truck breaks down. The two get on well, but once Emil, a former Serbian soldier in the Bosnian war, shows his true intentions that are to settle an old score, a deadly game of cat and mouse through the remote Appalachian Mountains and forests begins.
So here we have the long awaited first time team up of Robert De Niro and John Travolta in a film! It is just a shame it as a point in both their careers where they are turning up in a lot of rubbish, and Killing Season is no exception. It is a truly awful film that is a boring and clichéd cat and mouse ‘thriller’, as well as being very badly misjudged in terms of its historical accuracy and the point it tries to make.
From its making up of history to the ludicrous narrative of downright stupid situations the two protagonists keep on ending up in, the horrific dialogue and pointless ending, Killing Season is quite frankly embarrassing to watch. Apparently Evan Daugherty’s original script was held in high regard, but apparently that was also called Shrapnel, set in the 1970s, to be directed by John McTiernon and also be a long awaited reunion of Travolta and the one and only Nicholas Cage. Now that sounds pretty good, but Killing Season is what we have instead.
Many have written more eloquently and with more knowledge on the historical inaccuracies of Killing Season than I ever could, but it most certainly does like to pick and choose its facts to benefit its own lazy and uninvolving narrative. A narrative which is not only completely devoid of any tension, but also becomes quite laughable at the increasing feeling that it is making it up as it goes along as the upper hand goes to and fro from each character in increasingly preposterous, and sometimes quite offensive and badly judged, developments. Also for good measure, they both are armed with a bow and arrow, and the reasons for this are, and this is putting it mildly, badly written.
The performances too are equally awful; De Niro, who has been predominantly on auto pilot for over a decade now, looks like he really cannot be bothered and never even attempts to try to capture the apparent torture his character suffers at the hands of his memories. Meanwhile, Travolta, armed with full on ‘Serbian’ accent that is just more like ‘generic nasty Eastern European person’ than actually geographically accurate, is the opposite. He overdoes the intense to just make his performance quite laughable.
Killing Season may ‘attempt’ to examine some potentially interesting and engaging ideas about the psychological effects of war and the fact that ultimately there is no winners. It has been done so much better so many times before, and when it finally limps to its predictable and lame conclusion, it is the decline of the output of these two actors that is the most striking thought.
It has to be said that director Mark Steven Johnson (Responsible for directing modern masterpieces such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider, as well as writing yuletide hit Jack Frost of course!) directs the film very well in terms of camerawork and shots of the forest and mountains. Apparently he wanted to recreate the atmosphere of Deliverance (should not go there, as always destined to fail!), but that is very much wasted. The 10 minute (of a 91 minute film, yes they did truly struggle to get a feature length narrative out of it!) credit sequence features many admittedly beautiful shots of Rabun County, but that and the painfully melancholic music only add to the feeling that Killing Season is unaware of what point it is actually trying to make. At least in a world where Adam Sandler films make huge profit there is some element of justice in the fact Killing Season is a straight-to-DVD, predominantly ignored, financial flop.
Examining themes that have been examined far better and far more effectively by countless far better films, Killing Season is an ill judged drama that truly takes historical fact with a pinch of salt for its almost unintentionally comical narrative. De Niro cannot be bothered and I would strongly advise anyone not to be bothered to watch either.