'Killing Season' Review: Meditation on War, Revenge Deserves Second Chance
The script for Killing Season made Hollywood's famous Black List several years ago. The project teamed legendary actors John Travolta and Robert De Niro for the first time. So what's with all the hate from online critics?
Let’s ignore the cynical critics (most of whom also told us Avatar was a masterpiece) and simply examine this new Mark Steven Johnson directed movie for what it really is: a well told action drama and meditation on the effects of war and the men and women that put on the uniform in times of conflict.
Killing Season is about two men haunted by actions performed during the Bosnian War. However, both men were on opposite sides of the conflict: one is American (De Niro) and the other is Serbian (Travolta). Eighteen years after the war (and a bullet in the back for one of them), the American soldier has retired and chosen to keep to his lonesome in a cabin in the woods. The Serbian soldier is finally going to exact his revenge on the man he sees as responsible for his misery.
I won’t tell you much more because one of the deepest pleasures of Killing Season lies in its ability to surprise. Kudos to screenwriter Evan Dougherty for this script because it has some really marvelous moments and some great dialogue. Most of the interactions between Travolta and De Niro are priceless and refuse to be tongue in cheek. They pull together some really powerful scenes thanks to the strong writing.
Another aspect to the film that works (thanks to both the script and the director) is the fact that this movie never becomes a mindless action film (despite the setup and Avi Lerner being a producer). Rather, Killing Season chooses to be more about character and about how each of these soldiers acts in this crazy situation they are thrown into.
The set-ups for the few action scenes are actually quite brilliant. There was more than a few moments where I gasped or winced at what was happening. One has to at least give Daugherty points for being original and keeping our attention.
There’s been a lot of talk in reviews about how the accents don’t work in this film from both Travolta and De Niro (Travolta is Serbian and De Niro is from the South of the great US of A). However, I ask these cynics to watch the film again because it is pretty much explained that the two talk the way they do for a reason. Either way, Travolta and De Niro bring their A game here and they are working with some fantastic material.
Overall, Killing Season works thanks to the great writing by Daugherty and two performances from a couple of acting giants. Also, thank director Johnson for allowing the movie to be more than just another throwaway, campy action film. He allows the material to breathe and it’s easy to tell Season is about more than just two men hunting one another: it’s about why they are doing it and why they may have no other options and that, my friends, is why I am ignoring the hate and choosing to praise a new little film called Killing Season.
Killing Season is available through streaming services like Amazon and Vudu.com.