Killing Season (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Killing Season</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, February 2014) There is, admittedly, some interest in seeing Robert de Niro going head-to-head with John Travolta in a no-holds-barred brawl through the Appalachians. But the interest in seeing Killing Season pretty much stops at its concept, because the film turns out to be a far duller and gorier in its execution than it should have been. Never mind the dull prologue, the interminable setup or the pretentious dialogues that drown the rest of the film’s quick-and-violent aims: Killing Season seems flawed from the beginning, from casting to the uneasy mixture of art-house bon mots with grind-house blood. While the violent match-up between John Travolta and Robert de Niro isn’t without interest, it’s hard to shake the feeling that neither of those actors are right for their respective roles. Travolta gets to indulge into fancy facial hair and an even fancier accent, but doesn’t have the gravitas required for playing a Serbian soldier with a murderous grudge. Meanwhile, de Niro seems out of place as a cranky ex-soldier: he’s too old to play the character (especially given the action sequences in the film), and his established persona is far more social/urban than being holed up in a cabin. For two people who, by mid-film, are pretty dead set on killing each other, the film drags on, and on, with an escalating number of scenes where the characters get graphically mauled or tortured. The gore increases the contrast between the exploitation roots of the premise and the talky themes it attempts to explore along the way: while action thrillers can certainly use action explore weightier themes, Killing Season simply seems to stop dead in-between its action beats as it talks and talks about the horrors of war and the way veterans never truly re-integrate peaceful society. Then there’s the weight of the film’s stars: While the film could have been an interesting discovery had it featured quasi-unknowns, it begs for more in featuring Travolta and de Niro. Anyone seeing it on cable TV listings may watch it thinking that it’s a bigger and better film than it is… and disappointment will ensue.

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