I didn’t know much about Killing Season before watching it, but became interested when I heard that Robert De Niro and John Travolta played soldiers in the Bosnian war, which isn’t a subject covered a lot in film. As it turns out most of the movie is actually set in the wooded mountains of present day Tennessee, with the premise of the film set up in flashbacks to the war.
Warning: this review contains spoilers!
After some disturbing flashbacks to the Bosnian War, the movie switches to the present, where twenty years after the conflict, veteran Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) is leading a quiet life in his cabin in the Appalachian mountains, still emotionally and physically recovering. When his Land Rover breaks down near his house, a stranger (John Travolta) happens to be there to help out and the two strike up a conversation. You would think given his war history, Ford would be a little suspicious when a shady guy with a Serbian accent and name (he introduced himself) just shows up hanging around his house in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, but ok. He invites him in and the two spend the night talking and bonding over Jäger shots and Johnny Cash records.
The next day, while they’re out hunting together, arrows start flying at De Niro and Travolta reveals he is super pissed at him about something that happened during the war. From this point on the movie is pretty much a cat and mouse game with the two running around the woods. Story wise very predictable, but what the two do to each other had me surprised and occasionally cringing in my seat (e.g. arrows piercing in nasty places and salty lemon juice poured into wounds).
Also interesting is how you slowly learn what was alluded to in the war flashbacks in the beginning and what exactly the character’s roles were during the war. I thought this was cleverly done; the two were able to talk using their walkie-talkies and the repertoire they built the night before kind of gave them some understanding about each other, which added to the tension.
For a film so centered around just two characters, I was a little surprised by the casting. De Niro is very believable as the retired soldier Ford, but Travolta playing a Serbian tough guy with with a weird beard and accent takes some getting used to. Nothing detrimental to the movie though, and the dynamic between the two was solid.
Killing Season’s fast-paced, at times gory action, solid acting and an interesting back-story make up for its predictably. By no means the movie of the year but if you’re in the mood for something different than the big movies currently in theaters or looking for a nice popcorn movie on VOD this is a good pick. 2.5 Nerdskulls!