Killing Season is a drama/thriller about two men from very different worlds that share a common bond, the Bosnian War. One is American soldier Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) and the other Serbian soldier Emil Kovac (John Travolta). The two soldiers unexpectedly crossed paths during the Bosnian War when Ben and his American troops systematically assassinated a group of Serbian death squad shock troops. Emil is among that group of Serbian killers who manages to survive his execution. Almost two decades later, Emil seeks Ben in the Appalachian Mountain wilderness. After the two meet, they become close friends in a very short time only to have Emil reveal his true intentions to Ben in an attempt to kill him.
Before I begin, I have to say that prior to this movie, I really knew nothing about the Bosnian War which happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 until 1995. This war essentially began as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia and involved several factions all warring against one another. This war resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of militants and innocent civilians alike. A wealth of horrific acts conducted in mass quantities such as rape, execution, mass graves and other ruthless acts of unspeakable violence. There is a ton of information about the Bosnian War online, here is just one of dozens of informational sites:http://www.history.com/topics/bosnian-genocide
When I first approached this movie, I thought “hey, it’s Travolta and De Niro, should be pretty good.”
The introduction to the movie did not grip me at all as it begins with a flashback to the Bosnian War and shows the execution of the Bosnian death squad by the American troops. As previously mentioned, Emil survives the execution and then hunts down Ben to kill him. Now, I like Travolta in most roles he has done over the years, however in this role, I feel like he just really didn’t belong; as if the casting director just REALLY wanted Travolta in this role. Now, if it were up to me, I would have cast an actual Serbian actor, such as Nikola Duricko or Nikola Kojo. Emil was paralyzed for well over a decade but eventually regained his ability to walk. He is also a very devout Catholic and does a significant amount of religious references throughout the movie.
De Niro, very few times in his career have I not enjoyed De Niro in a role. This one I am really on the fence about for several reasons, the primary is that De Niro just isn’t fit enough to play this role. Ben is a former Army soldier who was on the front lines during the Bosnian War, since his military days, he has retreated to the Appalachian Mountains where he has completely secluded himself in a remote cabin, even from his own son and grandson. Ben hunts his own food and occasionally goes to town for provisions. On one of those trips he runs into Emil who helps him repair his truck. That interactions results in Ben inviting Emil back to his cabin, where the two spending the evening having dinner, drinking and socializing which clearly Ben desperately needed. While out on a hunting trip, Emil reveals his true intentions which is to exact his revenge on Ben. Going back to De Niro in this role, there is a significant amount of running through the woods, and it is clear that the person running through the woods as Ben, is most definitely not De Niro. This legendary 70 year old actor is no doubt in good shape, but it is clear that the stunt actor running through the woods isn’t De Niro.
The battle between the two veterans goes back and forth throughout the movie, Emil has the upper calf, Ben gets the upper hand, Emil gets the upper arrow, Ben gets the upper shrapnel and so on it goes. I’m not going to give away the ending, but it was frankly the best part of the movie, it ending. I just really think that the story was solid albeit a little repetitive, Travolta is great but had no business being in this role, and De Niro is fantastic but is just too old for this role. I wouldn’t personally buy this on disc, but it’s worth a rental.