The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Killing Season (2013)
Back in July of 2014, Jamie and I looked at this one for the DTVC Podcast. The fact that it had Robert De Niro and John Travolta made it high on my priority list, and with the DTVC Podcast still new and trying to find its voice, I figured it would be an easy one for Jamie and I to fill an hour of conversation with. Unfortunately the written blog post got lost in the shuffle between work and the holidays, but here it is now.
Killing Season stars De Niro as a former veteran of the Bosnian War who is hunted down by another veteran, John Travolta, in the Appalachian woods where De Niro lives a secluded life. The catch: Travolta is a Serb, complete with the accent. As these two bitter rivals face off in a deadly game of cat and cat, who will come out victorious?
Jamie and I both came to the same conclusion here: a fun movie, and fun to watch De Niro and Travolta in a small scale DTV flick. It's not perfect by any means, and the cat and cat game starts to run its course around the hour mark, but what's great is we're treated to about 10 minutes of credits, so as things wind down around the 65 minutes in, we only need to slog through 15 more, and that slog is helped along by the fact that it's Travolta and De Niro-- plus that amazing Appalachian scenery, which is what we're treated to for the ten-minute credit sequence. For 80 minutes on Instant with De Niro and Travolta, you could do much worse.
I watched this with my wife, and she's someone who has loved seeing De Niro over the years in films like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Cape Fear. It was the last film of that list that especially made her take notice, considering the degree to which De Niro mailed in his Southern accent in Killing Season, because we'd seen him do it so much better before in Cape Fear and we know he's capable of it. There is a definite feel of mailing it in here with De Niro, and I guess if anyone has earned the right to mail it in with DTV flicks at the end of his career, it's him. His rap sheet is pretty prodigious: two Oscar wins, five more nominations, plus five of his films were among AFI's 100 films 100 years list, he's created some of the most iconic characters in film history, and is maybe the best actor of his generation. When he acts opposite the guy playing his son, even as he's mailing it in, you can see just how much better he is, and I guess maybe as fans we can't expect him to give us Travis Bickle or Vito Corelone every time-- but we can still joke about it when watching the newer stuff.
Let's get all the Travolta affecting a Serbian accent jokes out of the way right now. Also the beard. It's as silly as you like, though I will say he does pretty well with the accent. In fact, overall I think he brings it more than De Niro does, but also this is his first time acting opposite De Niro, so I think he was excited for the opportunity. Maybe it wasn't the film or the time in his career he expected, but when the moment came he took it, and I think you have to applaud him for that. It'll be interesting to see where his career goes from here, because, unlike De Niro, this is his first dip into the DTV pool (almost DTV: the film did gross $27,000 in the theater), and the sense is he only did it to act opposite De Niro. Will he join his fellow big screen acting brethren like Cage, Cusack, and Willis? Only time will tell.
At the DTVC we've seen many of these Dangerous Game type/humans hunting humans kind of deals, and this one, like all the others, suffers the same fate of trying to keep up the momentum. This is especially true of one like this where you only have two players, and they take turns being the hunter and hunted (which is why I called it "cat and cat" instead of "cat and mouse"). How many times can one get the upper hand on the other, only to have the other turn the tables? As much as film makers like to think they can keep the suspense up, when we're only 30 minutes in, we know the story isn't going to end when one guy catches the other. This film seemed to mitigate this problem the best way that I've seen, and that was by rolling the credits early over a backdrop of the Appalachian wilderness. The reality is, unless you do a film like The Warriors where there are many hunters and each are unique, or you do like The Running Man and you make it more of a real game, this kind of story is only good for a 42-minute episode of a drama, and it will always lose momentum.
Speaking of stories, I thought I'd post a little book porn for you. As far as best cameo of a Hemingway book in a film, this doesn't touch A Farewell to Arms in Evil Dead 2, but it's still nice to see. While none of the books I own and have read are in perfect condition, I have to admit I cringed a bit seeing De Niro dog-ear the corner instead of use a bookmark. It made me wonder though: was that his decision or was it in the script? Because De Niro's character was definitely a dog-ear the corners kind of guy, and if it was his idea, it was another example of how great an actor he is, even if he felt like maybe he was mailing in the rest of the role.
Overall, this isn't a bad time, and again, with its availability on Instant and short runtime, it's a great time killer. Travolta definitely wants to take advantage of his opportunity to work opposite De Niro, and De Niro, while not Vito Corelone, does well enough to make the film fun. You can always check Jamie and I out live every Wednesday from 8-9 EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and can download the podcasts after on the archive page here on the site; or on iTunes, just type in DTVC Podcast and subscribe.
For the Killing Season episode, right click here and select "save link as".
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1480295/