Let’s face facts. War is heck. Sure, we can go back to ancient times with the Romans or more modern offerings such as the World Wars or even Vietnam, but perhaps more recent offerings between smaller countries and territories can be just as brutal. But what can be surprising is the emotional and physical toll it takes on those soldiers even years after it happens. Our film today, Killing Season takes us into two different sides in the aftermath of a very brutal altercation, the Serbs and the Bosnians.
We get text across the screen. In 1992, the Serbian Army invaded Bosnia starting a war marked by large-scale massacres of civilians in the name of ethnic cleansing. Over two hundred thousand people died. We watch as brutal war scenes take place. In 1995, Operation Deliberate Force was created by American and NATO forces to finally put an end to the horror of that long and dreadful altercation complete with prisoner of war camps and deadly surrenders.
Our first real scene features a row of Serbs all lined up on their knees in execution style as one NATO soldier after another puts a bullet in the back of each one’s head. But when they get to the last one, there is a long pause. We see the Serb, now revealed as the character of Emil Kovac (played by John Travolta) turn back towards the soldier before we see a flash of light, a gunshot and then everything goes to black.
Belgrade, Serbia in the present day. Emil walks into a bar where he sits down with a shady character who gives him a file for some good ole fashioned currency. The Serb thumbs through the file of NATO restricted soldiers until he comes across the paper with Colonel Benjamin Ford’s (the picture of Robert DeNiro) face and vital information. Eighteen years Emil has waited and now it is time for him to go hunting.
Benjamin Ford is a retired war veteran living in a cabin retreat somewhere in the Appalachian mountains. He lives a relatively peaceful life which consists of taking and developing pictures of wildlife, cooking, eating, reading and of course sleeping. Then he is back up at 6 am the next day to go through the same routine all over again. He also seems to have a knack for avoiding his son, Chris (played by Milo Ventimiglia) who tries to convince Ben to come to his grandson’s baptism on the following day.
After the call, Ben realizes that he is fresh out of aspirin and gets in his vehicle to go to the local store. As he starts the truck and starts to drive away we see a figure in the shadows. A little bit down the road, Ben’s check engine light comes on and he has to stop. It appears the vehicle is smoking. Ben takes a look under the hood and gets frustrated because he can’t figure it out. Soon, the shadowy figure appears right in front of Ford’s vehicle and is revealed to be none other than Emil Kovac.
Emil offers his help but Benjamin initially declines. After further frustration, Emil steps in and is able to fix the vehicle. Ben starts to drive away in the pouring rain but turns back and asks Emil if he needs a lift. Much like Ben, he initially declines but later accepts as they go back to the cabin. They spend that night comparing their bows, eat and drinking (mostly drinking) and then deciding to go on an Elk hunt the next morning (at Emil’s insistence). However, when the two go out the following day to look for some Elk, one has to wonder what Emil is really hunting for.
If the premise of this movie sounds interesting, you are very right it sounded delightfully interesting to me too. Of course then the movie started playing and I tried to get through John Travolta’s bizarre Serbian accent and it went downhill from there. Consider this for starters, Travolta is nearly 60 and DeNiro is nearly 70 years old. While this is not an action blockbuster per say, it is certainly filled with action included scenes of torture and some gruesome sights.
Put this film about twenty years ago with tighter writing and you might really have something here. It just never gets going. The really intense moments (or the ones that should be the big moments) just lay there and then it stumbles along to an ending that does not even seem to make sense. This is especially true given what heck these two actors have been through in the last hour of screen time or so. I so wanted to like this film but it was not even awfully bad where you could laugh at it, it was just plain terrible.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen (they call this full frame on the back of the package which is kinda funny for seasoned film watchers like me since 1.33 was full frame for years and years) at 1080P. For a movie that is primarily based in the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, it unfortunately feels like it is out in somebody’s back yard with a few trees. The detail is okay for the most part, but much like the movie it simply limps around. The film also has a nasty habit of constantly being in the dark or overcast light which really fails to show any sort of depth and picturesque landscape that you might come to expect.
The audio is presented in 5.1 English Dolby TrueHd (English Stereo 2.0 Mix also available). The audio is perhaps the strongest part of this film. The dialog is very good and the action actually hits some high points when it comes to surrounds and the thwack of an arrow sailing into a nearby tree. Again, it probably won’t amaze you but it will certainly make you stand up and take notice a bit. Subtitles are included for English SDH and Spanish speakers.
- Automatic Trailers: Upside Down(I am not sure if this movie really interests me or is going to give me a headache), Stuck in Love(Kirsten Bell is hot), The Iceman (With Chris Evans and James Franco you would think this be a movie about the X-Men character but it is not), and What Maisie Knew (My review can be found here)
- Killing Season Featurette 2:23: Talk about your throwaway segments. We get the director (Mark Steven Johnson), Travolta and DeNiro to say a few words. And that’s honestly it.
Originally this film was supposed to have Nicholas Cage play opposite John Travolta. Truthfully that would have probably fared about the same as this film in front of us. This film has a much better shot playing as an indie film with two small time actors or if we are going big, let’s go Daniel Craig as the NATO officer and Liev Shreiber as the Serbian soldier. Then you might have something. But unfortunately we have a very average film that simply limps from beginning to end just like Robert DeNiro’s leg for most of this film.
The disc while not as below average as the film is nothing special to speak of either. The video is okay, the audio is decent and the extras are plain pitiful. Heck, Travolta likes to hear himself talk, couldn’t he have at least recorded a commentary or interview for this film? Maybe he did not like it too much either. Anyway, no recommendation to be found here. It is not even average which is extremely unfortunate when the premise had loads of potential. Move along, move along.