"Finding Some Redemption Despite the Soulless Ravages of War"
KILLING SEASON is a manly, macho action adventure flick about war, revenge, and – eventually – peace. It’s gripping and ultimately redemptive, but sometimes gruesome. It also has plenty of crude language.
The movie opens in Bosnia in 1995 as American soldiers come across a Serbian concentration camp for Muslim men. The American soldiers are so angry at what they see at the camp that they execute all the Serbian soldiers after taking off their Serbian uniforms.
Cut to present day. One of the Serbian soldiers, played by John Travolta, is still alive. He walks into a bar in Belgrade and pays for a packet of info about the American soldier who shot him in the back, a man named Col. Ben Ford. Soon, Emil Kovac is pretending to be an immigrant hunter looking to bag an elk near Ben’s cabin in the Rocky Mountains. Emil befriends Ben, who’s played by Robert DeNiro and invites him to go hunting the next morning.
The next day, they separate and hunt for a large elk with two bows and arrows. When they finally find one, Emil suddenly takes a shot at Ben. Thus begins a dangerous cat and mouse game. Emil doesn’t just want to kill Ben. He wants to make him pay for the pain Emil suffered after Ben shot him in the back and left him for dead in Serbia all those years before.
It is exciting to see two veteran actors like Travolta and DeNiro go at it in a movie like KILLING SEASON. Their performances and the movie’s straightforward simplicity carry the drama until the very end. Surprisingly, the worldview seems to be a Christian reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in the Hebrew Scriptures, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. . . a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build. . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” Along with this come references to a church, Jesus and God, the Cross on which Christ bore our sins, Confession and forgiveness, baptism, and references to guilt and sin. Taking its cue from such ideas, KILLING SEASON ends on a couple positive, uplifting notes. Ultimately, it’s the acting and the redemptive symbolism that lifts this movie above its generic roots. This is the kind of solid cinematic effort that veteran film directors like Don Siegel (DIRTY HARRY, MADIGAN, and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) and Robert Aldrich (THE DIRTY DOZEN, TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING, and FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX) sometimes made, in between their masterpieces.
Despite all this, KILLING SEASON contains plenty of strong foul language. There’s also a crude joke with references to “sexual favors” and oral sex. The joke is told twice but it also comments on the resolution of the conflict between Ben and Emil, including the personal demons that afflict them. Although the Bosnia War is ended, the war’s effects haven’t ended for either Ben or Emil. In fact, the war has damaged Ben emotionally. He has deliberately removed himself from his son, his son’s wife and their new baby because he no longer feels worthy of their love.
In addition to its crude language, there is some gruesome violence in KILLING SEASON. For example, the two main characters suffer terrible bloody wounds in the right leg and cheek from two arrows. Both wounds lead to a couple gruesome twists in the plot that further develop the two main characters and their identities.
All in all, therefore, because of the crude language and violence, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for KILLING SEASON.
(CC, BB, Pa, LLL, VVV, S, N, AA, D, MM) Strong Christian, moral worldview, mitigated by some pagan immoral behavior and content about a man who has lost almost all sense of faith, with ultimately positive, meaningful references to church, Jesus, God, Confession, the Cross, baptism, forgiveness, with echoes of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 37 obscenities (including many “f” and “s” words), six strong profanities, and one light profanity; some extreme, gruesome violence with blood including arrow pierces man’s leg, man forces another man to push stick and string through wound in his calf, man hangs other man up by the wound in his calf, arrow pierces man’s cheeks, man pours lemon and salt into man’s cheek wounds, men shot execution style, Muslim corpses on train from Bosnian war crimes shown twice, but Serbian corpses of Muslim atrocities also shown in one scene, man stabbed, pieces of wood made to fall on man; no depicted sex but crude joke about “sexual favors” and oral sex told twice, “f” word used a couple time when mentioning fornication, and Serbian man says Serbian women in his village were raped; upper male nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; brief smoking; and, revenge, deceit, illegal activities, man estranged from his son because he no longer feels worthy of his son but that’s resolved positively, man deliberately misses his grandchild’s baptism because he no longer feels worthy of his family and apparently has lost his faith in God and Christ’s church.
KILLING SEASON stars Robert DeNiro and John Travolta in a battle of wills between a former American soldier and the Serbian soldier he tried to execute during the Bosnian War in 1995. Travolta plays the former Serbian soldier who pretends to befriend the former American soldier years later. They go hunting together near the American’s rustic mountain cabin retreat. Suddenly, the Serb takes a shot at the American. This begins a deadly game of cat and mouse.
It’s exciting to see two veteran actors go at it in a movie like KILLING SEASON. The performances and the story’s straightforward simplicity carry the drama until the end. Surprisingly, the worldview seems to be a Christian reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:1 to 8, “There is a time for everything. . . a time to kill and a time to heal. . . a time for war and a time for peace.” The movie also includes references to church, Jesus, Confession, baptism, and the Cross. Despite this, the movie contains plenty of crude language and some gruesome violence. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for KILLING SEASON.