johnlink ranks KILLING SEASON (2013)

The critically panned KILLING SEASON brought together John Travolta and Robert De Niro to hunt each other in the woods. The critics may have hated it, but my brother really enjoyed it. I figured it was worth a shot.


I watched KILLING SEASON (2013) on 4.6.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

A Serbian (John Travolta) with a score to settle with an American ex-soldier (Robert De Niro) who tried to kill him during the Bosnian War. The Serb, Emil, gets on a plane to the mountain home of the solider, Ben, in order to befriend and then hunt him.

What plays out is a cat-and-mouse game which attempts to break some of the cliched rules of narrative action-movie structure. Usually, in a film like this, the action climbs a mountain, so to speak, as it gains intensity along the way. In KILLING SEASON, the brutality between these two men starts early and it doesn’t peak so much as it plateaus for a long time. These two men are hung from their legs, shot through the face, tortured with household products, thrown off a cliff in a rolling Jeep without seat belts, hit with rocks, get sucked down river, and so on. While this serves to cause a deal of surprise at the outset, it also manages to make some of the larger spots, particularly the Jeep crash, feel unbelievably unrealistic.

The end probably pissed a lot of people off, but it was set up throughout. Great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once said “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” Writer Evan Daugherty takes this advice literally when it comes to shotguns, bows, lemons, knives, and everything else. Sometimes the foreshadowing is a little too thick, but the movie is efficient in what it introduces.

The acting is mixed. The first scene between Travolta and De Niro, taking place in De Niro’s house, is really nice. Yet, sometimes, the actors appear a bit bored. De Niro is passive at times, rather than quietly aggressive. The accents have been ridiculed in some other reviews, and that is not without some merit. Travolta’s didn’t entirely bother me. At least it was consistent. De Niro’s southern accent sometimes is there, sometimes is not, and some scenes appear to have forgotten that he has any kind of accent at all. It’s weirdly inconstant for such an historically good actor.

Ultimately, KILLING SEASON earns some credit for trying to go about things in a unique way and by giving an ending which probably didn’t satisfy the whole audience. It makes points about war, even if it uses less than factual information to make some of those points. The film is not a complete success, but it does manage to move along at a pace which doesn’t feel forced. While it could certainly use more nuance, the film is not ineptly made. The visuals are nice, the score is nice, the Johnny Cash usage is effective, and the characters make you care.

While this may not be a top movie for me, it certainly didn’t seem nearly as bad as some of the critics made it out. I’d give it another watch for sure. The film world needs more films of this sort, even if KILLING SEASON didn’t hit the market dead on.



I actually loved the score for this movie. While it may have been unassuming, it hits the emotional beats well. Christopher Young is not a name I know, but I liked his work on this film.


FINAL SCORE: 6.25 out of 10


~ by johnlink00 on April 7, 2014.

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