Editor’s Notes: Killing Season is now opened in limited release. For an additional perspective on the film, read Dominic’s review.
I’m a big Robert De Niro fan and I will watch anything he’s in, even the bad stuff. Give me De Niro with a gun and honestly, I get a little excited about the possibilities.
Killing Season finds De Niro playing Benjamin, a retired American colonel who lives a secluded life in the Appalachian woods ensconced in listening to Johnny Cash and reading Hemingway. He is a bit of a loner after the war, even keeping away from his son (Milo Ventimiglia) and the rest of his family. John Travolta plays Emil, a Serbian war criminal seeking vengeance against Benjamin for his part in the Bosnian war. The two meet and at night share stories of life and death over Jaeger shots. The next day, Emil reveals who he is, pulls out his bow and arrow, and starts hunting Benjamin in what begins as a back and forth cat and mouse game that goes nowhere.
After a while all you can see and hear in this film is Travolta’s bad Serbian accent, audacious fake chin-strap beard, and spray on hair.
After a while all you can see and hear in this film is Travolta’s bad Serbian accent, audacious fake chin-strap beard, and spray on hair. Don’t get me wrong he tries his best with the role, but he tries a little too hard with it. There’s a scene where he plays a younger version of himself from fifteen years ago with the same chin-strap and spray on hair. De Niro does an average job with my only complaint being the inconsistency in his southern accent. Together the actors do an acceptable performance with the chemistry between each other, making the audience wish they’d had a chance to see them play these roles when they were younger. Maybe back then they would have had the gumption or the foresight to tell Mark Steven Johnson to find a better script. As De Niro and Travolta switch shoes between the hunted and the hunter, the action tries to pick up (including some torture scenes that are supposed to be provoking, but prove more eye-rolling fodder), remains steady, but the acting coasts along, leaving the audience wondering where the heart of all of this went.
Together the actors do an acceptable performance with the chemistry between each other, making the audience wish they’d had a chance to see them play these roles when they were younger.
De Niro’s Benjamin was originally cast with Nicolas Cage as a sort of Face-Off reunion for him and Travolta. It made me think that they should have recast both Emil and Benjamin with Nicolas Cage in the second half of the film. It would have given Johnson the experimental art-house endeavor he was going for here, and given Travolta a break from that accent. That would have been slightly sillier than the meandering denouement offered in this production.
Peter Menzies Jr.’s cinematography illuminates the naturally tranquil setting, thus providing a quiet background for the expected violence; the one that never comes.
Johnson’s previous directing endeavors include Ghost Rider, Elektra, Daredevil and Simon Birch (I actually liked that one). Killing Season has some good moments, but they’re lost in the muddle of what could have been great considering the talent involved.
I would like for this pairing to try again, but if they are looking to change their image or to push buttons in the future, let’s hope they find something more challenging, because we know they can do better.
[notification type=”star”]49/100 ~ BAD. Killing Season has some good moments, but they’re lost in the muddle of what could have been great considering the talent involved.[/notification]