Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Even today, at the age of 70, most of us still consider Robert DeNiro one of our greatest living actors.  Even today, at the age of 70, when Mr. DeNiro clearly no longer gives a flying f@#k about what he will do for his million dollar paycheck, he is still great.  One thing though, and this is just a little note to future filmmakers who wish to cast my man in a movie, and you will want him because his name is Robert DeNiro… nix any requirement for him to have an accent.  Just don't do it.  Not that Mr. DeNiro can't do it, but you, the filmmaker, just have to get him to commit to it.  Good luck with that.  Take this movie for instance, Mark Steven Johnson's 'The Killing Season' also starring John Travolta.  Apparently Mr. DeNiro had a southern accent in this movie, one he used roughly 12% of the time, and only on certain words.  He'll say 'mah' instead of 'my'.  And that's about it.  Now John Travolta playing a Serbian National also had accent and to his credit his accent was consistent and it was unwavering.  However the issue J.T.'s accent is that the man has such a unique vocal tone and cadence, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was Vinny Barbarino pretending to talk like a Serbian National.  The movie itself, accents aside… well… I've seen better from both legends.

During the Serbian ethnic cleansing massacres of the early 90's, a group of American soldiers stumble upon one of the most horrific things that anybody would ever want to see.  When the soldiers put down the offensive of those responsible for these atrocities, instead of sending them to some POW camp, they send these clowns to Hell!!

Unfortunately, one of them survived, this being Emil Kovac (Travolta).  Twenty years later Kovac has found out who was responsible for the execution of his compadres, and his own attempted murder, one retired Col. Benjamin Ford (DeNiro) and he's about to make a trip to the great American Northwest to do some hunting.
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The years haven't been all that great to the retired Colonel who has removed himself from society and just lives off the land deep in the woods.  His estranged son would like to reconnect with his old man, but Ford is a tortured soul living a tortured life all by himself.  Then he sees the man walking in the woods who helps him with his car, and while Ford is one surly bastard, he takes to this guy, invites him to his home, serves him a meal with Kovac in return giving my man a fine beverage from his homeland.  They hit it off so well, they even decide to do some hunting the next morning. 

Oh well, so much for that.  There's hunting going on all right, Kovac and his bow engaged in hunting poor Col. Ford is what's going on.  Now this is about the point that 'The Killing Season' turns into a high brow version of 'Saw', and gets a little silly.  Kovac is torturing Ford, Ford turns the tables and now Ford is torturing Kovac.  Until Kovac turns the tables and starts torturing Ford.  Repeat, rinse, dry.  And eventually we will get to a scene where these two actors get to do what they were actually hired to do, because running through the woods chasing each other and torturing each other wasn't it.

Beautiful to look at with all of its sweeping natural vistas and long, loving shots of wildlife, 'The Killing Season' has taken a bit of a critical beating long before I got a chance to watch it, and unfortunately I do believe this is one of those instances where this beating is largely justified.  Now I'm not of the mindset that 'The Killing Season' is not a gawdawful film as we do have DeNiro and Travolta in tow, and Mark Steven Johnson is an experienced director, if not a particularly revered film director.  The launching point for our narrative provides a solid base for a very good story, but the execution is what I think was lacking.  The constant 'turning of tables' eventually became ludicrous.  I mean both of these men are supposed to be seasoned warriors, both are obviously veterans of the art torture, but yet neither of these wise veterans of war was able to properly secure the other to keep themselves from getting smashed in the face with nearby 2x4's or nearby hunting knives or whatever.  It just got plum silly after a while.

I can say, however, that at least 'The Killing Season' didn't bore me.  I probably didn't buy into Robert DeNiro's character, at his age, sprinting through the woods, hopping over rocks, falling off of cliffs into waterfalls and surviving… and it is a little odd that the younger Travolta did little of that stuff… but it was action and it was reasonably well shot.  I probably could've done without some of the torture, and I would also imagine that a seasoned special forces army veteran, once he has his pursuer disabled, would finish him off.  Say instead of running away into the woods like a scared sissy so we can get more chase, hide and seek.  But I did enjoy Robert DeNiro's final speech, accent still fading in and out, because he is still such a good actor that he can sell you on his character even when he's barely trying. 

Clearly 'The Killing Season' is a disappointment on almost every level that it participates on, and while the talent involved can't rescue this film, it does salvage enough of it to keep it watchable. 
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