Figure 01. Film Poster
Director : Mark Steven Johnson
Writer : Evan Daugherty
Stars : Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elisabeth Olin.
Film Synopsis : (IMDb)
Two veterans of the Bosnian War - one American, one Serbian - find their unlikely friendship turn tense with one of them reveals their true intentions.
Killing Season - Trailer
I saw this film on it's UK Premier at the BFI Southbank in London on the 25th June 2013. Followed by the presence of John Travolta himself in conversation with Johnathan Ross.
There were of course posters, trailers and reviews about this film available but, I like to go into a film with no previous information, so everything I see is fresh, ready to form my own opinions. I'm going to write this film review in a monologue style.
The films starts with a battle scene. Shaky cam, guns, explosions - the usual you'd see in a film to try and set the story of war. Within the first few seconds it was looking like an amateur film production, or a film where all the funds had been spent on the cast list rather than the film itself. I was hoping it would just be a bad start and the film would have spectacular story and acting to rescue itself.
Within this opening scene the American soldiers capture the Serbian soldiers and identify them with scorpion tattoos on their forearms. OK, so that's fine, they're identifiable by a large tattoo on their arm, that's easy to understand..... so why did they think it was necessary to hold the guy's arm to the camera for far too long? - I get it.. move on with the story!
Figure 02. John Travolta as Emil Kovac
And in comes Travolta, with his spray on hair. This seems to be a trend with him in films now, but it is terribly distracting. Especially when the story is so bad, the hair takes pride of place for the attention span. A few minutes of walking around some streets, entering a bar, drinking some shots and looking mean, we get to hear his impression of a Serbian speaking in English. This 'accent' is now in a competition with the hair for being the most distracting.
Figure 03. Robert De Niro as Benjamin Ford
Cut to Robert De Niro. This section of this film establishes his character as a recluse who lives in a cabin in the woods. He sets up his little hut made of branches to hide from the animals so he can get a good shot of them - with his camera, but OH! His leg, he has a bad leg and stumbles scaring the animal he was taking photos of. So It's been established he has a bad leg. Next shot - he gets out of the shower to reveal the scar which is the markings of his injury causing the bad leg. Two reminders, that's more than we need but ok, so we know he has a bad leg. Next shot- painkillers. He needs his painkillers for his BAD LEG... but there are none, so he makes his way to the car to look for some. None there either, a drive to the shop is needed. So the American ex-soldier drives off to get some painkillers, but oh dear his car breaks down right where the Serbian ex-soldier happens to be camouflaged into the woods.
Serbian "Can I help you with your car? I'm good at fixing English vehicles"
Serbian "Oh ok"
American "I'm sorry, I have a bad leg which makes me grouchy"
Figure 04. Travolta & De Niro in Killing Season
A BAD LEG?? When did that happen????
They end up going back to De Nero's house out of the rain and talk about his bad leg all night.
Milo Ventimiglia enters the story with his crooked mouth and a phone call to see if his father (De Nero) will be attending the baptism of his new baby son, whom De Nero has not yet met. So that gives away the ending.... He can't die in the film because he hasn't yet met his new born grandson. Que Hollywood ending.
Then the rest of the film they play cat and mouse coming after each other with some really boring walking or hobbling around looking mean. They become freinds and he visits his grandson. The End.
Overall, I'd love to give this film some praise as there are a couple of great actors starring in here, but it's hard to think of anything. It lacks emotion, there are continuity errors, there's really distracting spray on hair and some kind of accent. The quality of the filming is far too digital in areas and filmic in others making it inconsistent which takes you right out of the film.
Last words - Coming soon to a DVD near you.
Figure 05. De Niro & Travolta in Killing Season
In Conversation with Jonathan Ross
After the screening of Killing Season, Jonathan Ross (who was a surprise presenter) welcomed John Travolta to the stage. A 12 minute clip of his work in film was screened followed by a series of questions and answers. I'm glad to say, this mega star actor came across as a genuinely nice guy.
Figure 06. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage
Several questions later with many humorous points, Ross handed the questioning over to the audience. Travolta introduced his 13 year old daughter sat in the middle of the audience, who looked a little embarrassed to be announced in front of everybody. And from his own lips, he introduced his Number 1 fan, who actually changed her surname to Travolta many years ago and on her birthday (every birthday) celebrates by watching movies he stars in from 8 am to 12 midnight. The word stalker did come out of Jonathan Ross' mouth.
Figure 07. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage
We even got to see Travolta bust out some dancing moves from his earlier roles in his film career.
Figure 08. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage
Figure 09. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage
There was video footage recorded during this event which will be on the BFI website and archives at some point if you'd like to watch all the details.