Finally, the long awaited teaming of Jake La Motta and Tony Manero, the coming together of Al Capone and Danny Zuko, the union of Louis Gara and Vincent Vega!
Yep, Travolta and De Niro back-to-back! head-to-head! sharing the marquee!
Yeah, who am I kidding? No matter what I put on the sandwich board, as soon as one gets wind of the “… and Travolta plays a Bosnian war soldier” bit of the plot, it’s instantly clear that the only thing on the initially appealing-sounding menu is something crusty, and quite frankly, a bit off.
Emil Kovac (Travolta), a former Serbian soldier, has long wanted revenge on the American soldier who was ordered to kill him – though he somehow survived – and his colleagues back in the Bosnian war.
A pricey info-packet leads Emil to the remote Rocky Wilderness, where he befriends – and is welcomed into the cabin of – the unsuspicious enemy, loner, ‘Johnny Cash’ fan, and ageing ‘Rambo’ Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro).
After offering the drifting Emil food and shelter for the night, Benjamin is talked into going on a hunting trip with Emil. But, and the shooting arrow hurtling towards his head is the first indication something’s amiss with the new friendship, Benjamin quickly learns it’s he who is being hunted.
“Killing Season” isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not an especially good one either. The story is (kinda there), and the talent is – though miscast – obviously capable of supporting the plot, but the forces were against this turning out for the better from those initial letters of intent.
You see, the film’s huge band of producers – including the infamous Avi Lerner, king of the ‘all brawn’ action movie – do wrong by Evan Daugherty’s libretto by making it about the names, not the yarn. Sure, had they selected the right actors for the parts, it might have still turned out OK, but when you’re main stratagem seems to be coming up with a flashy poster bearing A-list names to hang at Cannes, quality insurance officers are obviously gonna have a field day with the finished product.
By casting distinctly Italian-American John Travolta as the screw loose Bosnian war veteran, the film’s otherwise engaging plot turns into somewhat of a joke – like a bad “SNL” skit almost, with the TV Sweat hog doing one of those half-amusing foreign accents (or doing on an impersonation of someone) he likes to pull out on talk shows. Poor John, you just can’t take him or the film seriously. De Niro fares better, because he’s believable enough in the role of a grizzled old sourpuss war veteran, but like he does in so many of the quick-money films he has done in recent times, the one-time king of dramatic cinema looks somewhat bored. And considering the lack of acting required for the film – though they’re both quite effective in the gory torture scenes, evoking a wince here and there – one wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear both thesps slept with the eyes open while film was rolling.
Mark Steven Johnson’s (“Daredevil”) apt direction and Aussie Peter Menzies Jr.’s (“Crocodile Dundee”, “Die Hard : With a Vengeance”) gorgeous cinematography – capturing every dreamy angle of those film-perfect alps – are as wasted as the film’s two expensive movie stars in this endurable but hokey addition to Avi Lerner’s imminent “look at all the famous people I’ve worked with” 80th birthday party reel.