Movie Review: Killing Season

Cinema still: Killing Season, starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro (L).

SINGAPORE - Movie Review. Thriller.

KILLING SEASON (NC16)

90 minutes/Now showing/1 Star

The story: Retired Colonel Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) is a recluse who prefers to spend time alone in the Appalachian Mountains taking nature photographs.

He meets European tourist Emil Kovac (John Travolta) and the two become friends. But as time passes, it becomes clear that the Bosnian War, in which Ford had played a role, has left a bitter residue that Kovac has turned up to erase.

Sometimes, along will come a small, smart thriller, set in a confined area and involving only two characters, players in a desperate game of cat-and-mouse.

This is not one of those times. What makes this dull and inept project even more tragic is that this is the first time these two iconic actors have been together. It is clear why they are both in this - for the money.

Both De Niro and Travolta have been involved in shamelessly mercenary and utterly disposable action movies in the past, but it is hard to think of one that tries so hard to rise above its station as straight-to-DVD fodder.

As Kovac, Travolta is given page after page of dialogue meant to convey the notion that he is, like, really deep, but also a badass.

He stares squintingly at the stunning Appalachian view and tells Ford (De Niro): "You are lucky. In my country, there is a layer of blood over everything. I see red everywhere."

It should be the audience seeing red, given the thick all-purpose Slavic- Russian accent that Travolta glops over every word like so much congealed borscht.

It is a parody of an Eastern European accent, one that a 1960s James Bond villain would decry as being too over the top.

Two-time Oscar winner De Niro deserves another statuette for not laughing each time Travolta serves yet another helping of ham. That he could stay focused on delivering his lines without splitting his sides is the true measure of his acting ability.

The action sequences involving how the two slowly do nasty things to each other all in the name of clearing karmic debt are jarringly gory, perhaps to take attention away from how ridiculously the situations seem to always reverse direction after each encounter.

Though both men have been soldiers, neither seem to understand the importance of good knots and not turning your back on a prisoner.

After about the fourth or perhaps seventh lazily plotted reversal of fortune allowing the chase to drag on, it becomes clear that the film's tagline "The purest form of war is one on one" should be understood to mean the one between the film's producers and the audience.

johnlui@sph.com.sg


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