Killing Season Review
There have been many films made about how war affects people when they return home. "Brothers" in 2009 was a surprising portrayal, while I felt "Forrest Gump" was a forgettable portrayal. Whats funny is that Robert De Niro was in possibly one of the best treatments of the sub-genre. That film was called "The Deer Hunter," and it revolved around soldiers from The Vietnam War and the effects that confusing conflict had on returning G.I.'s. It was a film that both well acted and well made, and it has easily become one of De Niro most modest highlights in his career.
Robert De Niro returns in 2013 with "Killing Season." A movie that also revolves around broken men after a huge conflict. As the film opens, title cards reveal disheartening facts about the Serbian Invasion of Bosnia which took place in the early 1990's. We learn how America and our allies got involved and we get some brutal cutaways of urban warfare. There is a scene in which American soldiers line up a bunch of enemies and mercilessly gun them down. One of those enemies happens to be John Travolta.
Several years later we meet Benjamin Ford (De Niro) who likes to spend time at his personal cabin. Ford seems to clearly be a troubled man, somebody who likes to keep to himself. This deeply upsets his son Chris (Milo Ventimiglia) who desperately wants his dad to be part of his life. Benjamin is in his secluded cabin when a drifter named Emil (Travolta) appears. They seem to hit it off immediately and Benjamin shares his cabin with Emil. The next morning, the two new friends are hunting together, until Emil shows his true colors. We learn both men served in the Serbian-Bosnian War, and it was Benjamin who nearly killed Emil at the beginning of the film. Emil has traveled to America for payback.
The rest of the film is a brutal cat and mouse game as Emil and Benjamin try to kill each other. We get a good understanding of Emil's need for revenge, as this becomes a exercise in survival for Benjamin. What keeps us interested are the performances by these actors. Travolta and De Niro are both legends, and in the hands of two different actors, this would not have worked. Especially since everything else about the movie seems borrowed from something else. The film features an ending that quickly wears out its welcome and the subplot involving Benjamin's son is not well utilized. Had the script been a bit stronger, I feel this could have been a fun, little exercise.
This won't destroy the careers of De Niro or Travolta. They have both survived much worse, and I know they both will be great again. I feel like their talent speaks for itself in "Killing Season." I just wish they had a stronger crew to work with to make this better than it needed to be.
FINAL GRADE: B-