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Killing Season (2013)

Studio: Millennium Films

Theatrical Release: July 12, 2013 (limited)

Blu Ray Release: August 20, 2013

Director: Mark Steven Johnson


Review by James Klein

It baffles me that a thriller starring Robert De Niro and John Travolta can go basically unheard of and dumped to blu ray but yet the latest crappy remake or superhero film can get a wide release. Maybe there is hope as big budget crapola like After Earth, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, White House Down, and R.I.P.D. have all been box office bombs. Can that mean audiences tastes are starting to change for the better and/or studios are going to start churning out smaller, lower budget films? I can only hope. I couldn't help but think what a fun movie Killing Season would have been with a live audience, on top of seeing its gorgeous cinematography displayed on a huge gigantic screen.

John Travolta stars as Emil Kovac, a Serbian and former soldier who fought during the Bosnian war. Emil travels to America to find Benjamin Ford (De Niro) who was a former U.S. soldier during Bosnia who lead his platoon into the capture and subsequently murder of several Serbian militia, with only Emil surviving. Benjamin is now a divorced recluse who now lives in the Appalachian Mountains all alone. He spends his day taking photos of deer and elk (images of The Deer Hunter kept creeping into my brain during some of these sequences) while at night he make super for himself while reading a book, listening to a Johnny Cash record. When Benjamin's truck breaks down suddenly, out pops Emil who offers to help fix the truck which he is able to do so very easily. As the two men decide to have dinner together and talk about the war and life in general, one can't help but know something bad is just around the corner.

The next morning as the two men decide to go hunting together, Emil suddenly fires his arrow at Benjamin which barely misses. Now the hunt begins as the two men become at war with another as they battle it out in the woods with very little resources. There are no martial arts or high tech weaponry displayed here: the action and violence is both realistic and brutal as the two men keep one upping each other until their final, bloody conclusion.

Killing Season can be a lot of fun if you try and check your brain at the door. I'm not saying this is like watching a Michael Bay film by any means but one needs to suspend his/her disbelief at times and just go along with the story.  At times Emil or Benjamin will get out of a situation by either pure luck or by the other doing something moronic. This may be Killing Season's biggest flaw for me but there is a lot more going for it.

First off the two leads: I have always been a fan of both actors and I rather enjoyed watching an action/thriller with men well into their 50's and beyond (De Niro may be a bit too old for the part, rumor has it Nicholas Cage was suppose to take on this role but I'd rather see old Bob in a movie like this then some stupid comedy where he's changing a baby's diaper). Both men deliver some pretty realistic performances. Travolta's accent took me by surprise at first but as the film went along, I seriously forgot I was even watching Travolta. I especially liked how he made Emil almost look like a Jason Voorhees type killer in the woods while he's pursuing Benjamin. It seems like as I get older and see more films, I tend to not be excited during thrillers but this film had me anxiously awaiting what was to happen next.

It's hard for me to get excited or have faith in a film that is directed by the man who did Daredevil, Ghost Rider and When in Rome but Mark Steven Johnson really did well by keeping the story moving along and the action fast paced with very little quick cutting that seems to be the popular fad now. Johnson even uses some of the more quieter sequences to display some much needed human drama that seems to be lacking in most action/thrillers now. I also really enjoyed the gorgeous mountain landscapes which looks even more beautiful when accompanied by Christopher Young's score.

For a film that went pretty much straight to blu ray, why are there no extras on this disc? Aside from a very brief promo, this is a bare bones release. How about a commentary track or even a trailer? I will say that the blu ray looks and sounds amazing but I happened to enjoy this movie and would have liked to have heard more about the making of the film.

Killing Season is for the more mature action fan. While certain moments during a characters escape seem rather silly or completely ridiculous, the film is saved by some great acting, direction, music and photography. Killing Season offered me a breathe of fresh air in an era where action films are almost dead and comic book adaptations seem to rule the multiplex's.

[Rating: 3.5]

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