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'Killing Season' wastes two legends

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POSTED: November 29, 2013 4:00 p.m.

What do you get when you mix John Travolta, Robert De Niro and a couple of hunting bows?
You get the film “Killing Season,” new to DVD and digital download. Is it worth a watch? I’m here to help you decide.
Travolta has been making movies for almost 40 years. He is revered for his work in “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and “Pulp Fiction,” while my favorites of his remain “Get Shorty” and “Face/Off.” In fact, ever since the 1990s and films like “Face/Off,” “Broken Arrow,” and “Swordfish,” it seems like Travolta has banked on his prowess at playing the villain.
When it comes to playing a worthy onscreen nemesis, there is a fine line between coming off as three-dimensional, believable and scary and just being over the top and cartoonish. In “Killing Season,” as you might have guessed, Travolta once again portrays the villain. But how effective is he?
Let’s get into the backstory. In the film, Benjamin (De Niro) was, once upon a time, an American soldier serving with NATO in Serbia. When he witnessed war crimes perpetrated by Emil (Travolta) and a band of fighters known as the Scorpions, his unit decides to secretly execute the men. Benjamin puts a bullet in the base of Emil’s neck. What he doesn’t know is that the war criminal survived.
Later, in modern day, Benjamin has retired to remote Appalachia to hide from war wounds, both physical — fragments remain in his leg — and psychological. However, Emil shows up on his doorstep to hunt him like an animal and torture him into confessing war crimes of his own.
The result is a cat-and-mouse game that could have been riveting, and was mildly entertaining, but mostly got chuckles from me.
Neither Travolta nor De Niro can really be faulted for the flaws in “Killing Season.” Travolta has to speak with an accent the entire time, and a keen ear also can hear De Niro’s. Both men do their best, and it wouldn’t have taken too much spit and polish to make this one an action blockbuster, raking in major dollars.
Instead, it fell flat, in large part due to writing. What bothers me the most about this film is that screenwriting is attributed to Evan Dougherty, writer of “Snow White and the Huntsman” (which flew mostly on the merits of special effects) and whose next protect is “Divergent,” which is poised to be the next “Hunger Games.” Here’s hoping Dougherty’s writing is sharper there, or he will have an army of angry young adults out for blood.
I’m not a fan.

McBrayer did not do a video of her review this week to take time off for Thanksgiving.

 

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