Friday, August 2, 2013

Killing Season: OldSoldiers Never Die....they just develop terrible accents

 John Travolta and Robert De Niro are both excellent actors a little past their primes. Both came to public cinematic notice in the 1970s, Travolta in the breakout disco story "Saturday Night Fever" and De Niro a few years earlier in "The Godfather II". Both have their share of winners and clunkers. If anything Travolta has been more of a tabloid target in recent years, owing to death of his son Jett, his adherence top Scientology and rumours about his sexuality.

So this story of two veterans of the Bosnian War, one American, one Serbian, who clash in the Appalachian Mountain wilderness has a certain sense of inevitability about it in terms of bringing the two together. Ford (De Niro) is a former American soldier who fought on the front lines in Bosnia. When the story begins, he has retreated to a remote cabin in the woods, trying to escape painful memories of war. The drama begins when Kovac (John Travolta), a former Serbian soldier, seeks Ford out, hoping to settle an old score. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game in which Ford and Kovac fght their own personal World War III, with battles both physical and psychological.

And the physical quotient is certainly high - meaning this is not a film for the squeamish: Travolta his his lower jaw "nailed" to a wall courtesy of an arrow fired by De Niro and he in turn exerts similarly harsh physical punishment on his rival. This back-and forth takes up most of the film's running time, with a barely mentioned subtext of De Niro estrangement from his son (Milo Ventimigilia) and his grandson.

By the end of the flm, old wounds are opened, suppressed memories are drawn to the surface and long-hidden secrets about both Ford and Kovac are revealed, including of course that they were  in much closer quarters in the war than Ford had any memory of. Director writer Mark Stevenson keeps things pretty murky throughout, as he did with "Daredevil" and other features, but the action is absorbing enough and almost covers for Travolta's wretchedly contrived Bosnian accent.

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