Killing Season (2013) Blu-ray Review: More Like Retiring Time

For every motion picture performer, there comes a time when all that matters is a quick and easy paycheck. It is during these dark moments in one’s career that even the most ill-advised decision to make a little dough can serve to topple what was once the most immovable of towers. I fondly remember a point in time when Robert De Niro – the man who wowed many a moviegoer away in movies like Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter, and who won an Oscar for his work in both Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II – was on top of the world. For well over 25 years, the man was boss – and nobody dared mess with this cinematic titan for fear of being pummeled into a tiny lump of lard. Sadly, once the 2000s hit, movies like Meet the Parents and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle – wherein the serious actor decided to be funny for a change – turned good ol’ Bob’s reputation into a tiny lump of lard himself.

And then there’s John Travolta – a man who only managed to shoot to fame in the first place because of a misguided generation’s idea of what a sex symbol was, and who managed to skim by with next to no talent in a time when disco dancing was considered to be, well, dancing. His own career initially peaked after only two films and a rather silly TV series before plummeting into one increasingly bad flick after another. Sadly, Quentin Tarantino decided to revive his career in the mid ’90s with Pulp Fiction, making way for a comeback that in-turn subjected us to the horrors of White Man’s Burden, A Civil Action, and just about every other film the man has made since 1994 – including the mind-numbingly dumb box office failure Battlefield Earth, Travolta’s hilariously mawkish love letter to Scientology.

So what are two guys – both oh whom hail from completely different walks of life, but who are also both experiencing waning vocational skills – to do when they somehow get wrangled up into making a cheapo movie like Killing Season? Well naturally, they both say “Yes” – and probably ensure they get their cash upfront. In the instance of Mr. De Niro – an individual who certainly must know the glory days are long gone – he puts about as much effort into this poorly written and amateurishly directed thriller as he probably does when he calls his agent to casually ask if there are any jobs available: he phones it in. For Travolta, however – a man who is still under the delusion he has a talent that was never there to begin with – he takes the part oh-so-seriously, which makes Killing Season even more painful than it already is.

Originally envisioned as a reunion vehicle for Travolta and Nicolas Cage (you know it’s bad when even he drops out!) – an actor who perhaps produces even more cringes from the average film lover than Travolta and the latter-day incarnation of De Niro combined – Killing Season started out as Shrapnel, one of those special movies that only received a limited release in theaters (which means only a handful of cinemas are brave enough to literally show anything on their screens) earlier in the year, before being quickly removed from all manners of moviehouses and finding a home collecting dust on video store shelves just over a month later (!) under a dumber title. Personally, I think they should have called this dud Retiring Time – as it would have served as a far more appropriate hint to its two performers.

The story here finds ex-Serbian Scorpion Travolta – complete with an outrageously handicapped accent, shorn hair, and a beard that a pubescent Amish kid would find contemptible – tracking down the NATO officer who helped to massacre his fellows back during the Bosnian War and left him for dead. That man, as you have probably already imagined, is retired Army colonel De Niro – who spends his days in a remote cabin up in the Appalachians living off the land and as far away from people as possible. Posing as a tourist who is keen to hunt some elk, Travolta not-so-coincidentally meets and befriends the reclusive De Niro – wherein product placement for Jägermeister takes place and both stars’ (who receive equal billing) bid a hefty portion of their already low net pay to the inclusion of a Johnny Cash tune on the film’s soundtrack.

It’s once Travolta reveals his true intentions, however, that director Mark Steven Johnson – a feller whose field of expertise is on the other side of the camera, and whose similarly dwindled career started out with Simon Birch before crashing into oblivion with Ghost Rider and When in Rome (eek!) – finally pulls the lever marked “Choke” on his late-model script and attempts to inject some life in an already futile filming of fruitlessness. From thereon in, the two men – who are literally on their own here, as there are only five other credited people in the film, none of whom take part in the story at hand – stalk each other about the isolated countryside, capturing and torturing the other fellow in succession, without ever succeeding in capturing their own audience (though they do most certainly torture us – no doubt about that!).

And then, just as abjectly as it began, Killing Season putters away to a whopping ten minutes of end credits in order to pad this sorry excuse for a movie’s runtime out to 90min. Seriously. And there are only seven cast members, mind you!

Seeing as how Killing Season was a low budget affair from the get-go, Millennium Entertainment’s MPEG-4 AVC/1080p transfer of this crime against humanity isn’t picture-perfect by any means. That said, it’s not bad, either – and I’m gonna leave it at that so as to let the title walk away with an iota of dignity. Likewise, the disc’s English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track sounds pretty darn good – especially the parts where neither performer speak! A DD 2.0 mix is also included, as are English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles. The only bonus item on this 25GB Blu-ray – apart from several trailers for other, more-interesting-but-just-as-cheap-looking-titles that play when the disc boots up – is a generic EPK ditty that runs two-and-a-half-minutes long (that’s a quarter of the time the film spent on its generous serving of end credits, just to reiterate).

In short: Mr. De Niro, I’m sorry. Mr. Travolta, you’re sorrier.

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Luigi Bastardo

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