Memories of Bosnian war reconnects veterans, one seeking peaceful recluse from mental strain, the other doling out vengeance to those who wronged him. Killing Season is fiery with its violence, a decidedly tense two-way rumble between experienced soldiers amidst open Appalachian Mountain terrain.
John Travolta fits himself with an awkward accent to portray Emil Kovac, a Serbian carrying grudges toward an assassination squad, of which Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) was involved. Bosnia fell into conflict with Serbia in 1992, and for thinly explained narrative acumen, Kovac chooses to extract vengeance in modern day America.
Sans cell phone or technology, Ford is an introvert divorcee, rejecting his son and newborn grandchild. Scenario set up effectively alienates this burdened veteran from potential saving contact as Kovac begins his run for revenge, a series of mental escapades and grueling physical challenges. Killing Season is explicit with its close-up views of open wounds, splurging on torture accessible to anyone, albeit with bitter, grisly scale.
Killing Season opens up loosely developed war symbolism, or rather the emptiness of its lasting impact. That explains hollow feelings as Mark Steven Johnson’s film wiggles to a compact finish, which presents senselessness without satisfaction. Kovac and Ford enter stretched dialogues as they hunt one another briskly and test survival instincts when openings arise, plentiful in the second act.
Both men overtake their opponent through threads of convenience or sharp wit, an enjoyable back-and-forth routine withenough savagery to calm urges for violence. Superior scoring by Christopher Young perks up a certainly low budgetedaffair, pursuing scale where visuals dwindle. With a puny credited cast of seven people, Young’s theme expands dramatic weight. This battle, taking place without witnesses, feels as if consequences carry enormity.
Killing Season is, however, personal. Side characters are fleetingly involved, packing De Niro and Travolta into a sharply constructed battle of wills. Scripting plays tight to its stars, and while forged accents stunt believability, seeing two aging screen greats play off one another amongst scenic photography has merit. Despite structural undertakings to push deeper layers of war time parables, images of gruff military men entangling one another in traps overlaps intended allegory, more so when you involve substantial actors.
Killing Season comes with a bonus featurette playing host to clips in a ratio of 2.35:1. The main feature opens to 1.78:1. Comparisons reveal no information loss, rather gain, although intensity is insinuated with tighter framing. It is also worth noting deeper color density within that same extra.
Shot on film with an almost universally photographic softness, fidelity is held back within source footage. Early shots of location work are heavily marred by densely packed and poorly refined foliage. Killing Season seems ravaged by compression, yet boosts AVC bitrates into the 30Mbps range.
Grain remains a hidden mystery, absent almost in its entirety for the running time. Digital phases, potentially, scrubbed those inherently filmic elements for unstated reasons; seems like a waste of resources. Killing Season is given a brush with fine detail, close-ups often veer natural despite a tinge of haziness. An introductory shot of De Niro is outstanding.
Cloaked in moody grays, contrast feels clipped to inhabit a typical day for night situation. De Niro and Travolta’s first meeting comes during a thunderstorm, clearly artificial in terms of deep blue color grading and car lights dimmed to almost nothing. Hit with generally stable, rich blacks, they offer a boost even if images appear dour by design. Killing Season’s look is penetrable, if suited to heavy handed circumstances.
For small scale conflict, Killing Season springs to life with a dominating TrueHD mix, encapsulating a war fought by two men in an audio presentation built for 20. Opening on broader terms, in flashback to the Bosnian War, guns propel strewn ammunition in countless directions. Vehicles jump from one speaker to the next with proper transitions.
Forest scenery is brought into this fray with beautiful ambient work, marvelous as a storm brings the leads together. Rain is captured outdoors, from the interior of a car, and inside a home. All three levels create differing soundscapes. Battles bring in slung arrows which whip from one side of the room to the next, with explicit attention paid to rear channels.
A dip into water rapids rushes water effects and hearty LFE, enveloping listeners. Fights eventually wind up flipping a car, bolstering bass and slinging debris. While slightly unnatural in audio elevation, De Niro’s church hideaway is amplified by creaky wood puncturing each channel as tension builds. Beautiful design work for such a cramped film.
One two minute featurette and a handful of trailers serve as lonely extras.
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