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Deep in the Appalachian mountains, a reclusive American military veteran Bejamin Ford and a European tourist Emil Kovac strike up an unlikely friendship. But when the tourist's true intentions come to light, what follows is a tense battle across some of America's most forbidding landscape proving the old adage: the purest form of war is one-on-one.
For more about Killing Season and the Killing Season Blu-ray release, see Killing Season Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
» See full cast & crew
Killing Season Blu-ray Review
A time to kill.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 19, 2013
The physical wounds of war are easy to see and, hopefully for the injured, easy to treat, but it's the deeper psychological pains that scar over with doubt, instability, fear, and even hate that are often left unseen and untreated. Whether battlefield trauma, haunting images, bearing witness to atrocities, or narrowly escaping the evils of armed conflict, the inward pains and lingering suffering often not only pull a man down, but fundamentally alter him, changing who he is, what he believes, and rewiring his thought process to make him capable of doing the things he may rightly or wrongly deem necessary to assuage those pains. Killing Season is an action-packed but also psychologically stimulating and dramatically satisfying film about two enemy combatants reunited in the name of revenge. It's also the story of how their lives have changed since both experienced -- from different perspectives, from different ends of the gun -- a particularly brutal moment that took place in the heat of conflict. It's an imperfect film but one that gets more right than it does wrong as it explores the trauma of war in a battle for survival, a kind of First Blood meets Enemy Mine and starring two of Hollywood's biggest legends.
Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) is ex-military who fought in the Bosnian war and, in the heat of the moment, did something he's not proud of that left several people dead. He's now living in seclusion and off the land, refusing to connect with the modern world and all but abandoning his son and newborn grandson, in essence punishing himself for the atrocity he committed. One day, on the trail, he runs into a Serbian named Emil Kovac (John Travolta) who strikes up a friendship with the man whom he appears to have much in common. The men share food, drink, and tales of days gone by. They hunt together the following morning, and it's then that Kovac reveals his true intentions. He intends to kill Ford and avenge the deaths of his friends nearly two decades ago. Ford narrowly escapes Kovac's first attempt, leading the two into a battle of physical skill, survival instinct, and determination to live in the Appalachian wilderness.
Director Mark Steven Johnson, whose credits include the appalling big-budget Comic Book films Daredevil and Ghost Rider, takes on a reserved, low-key, intimate, and inwardly reflective but outwardly energetic tone in Killing Season, and does so to positive effect. Johnson allows the inner characters to dominate the picture, their actions a reflection of both who they are and what they have become, making their inner conditions the protagonists and the film's real antagonists, not simply vehicles for action. The film certainly has no heroes -- both men are flawed -- but the enemy is easy to identify: war. It's war and the lingering aftermaths that serve as the catalyst for the story, and it becomes clear that the men will have to fight not so much to defend their physical existence but to reach a point that they can identify who it is they have become and what it is that new person has made them become. The only question, then, is whether they can survive to reach a point of a return to the men they were meant to be, not the men war made them to be.
Though Killing Season is at its best when the undertones slowly begin to take over and the character arcs move beyond the action, there's still a good bit to like about the film in its more superficial elements. It's short but well-paced, moving briskly as the characters battle physically and psychologically with both one another and themselves. The action is intense and rather gory, difficult to stomach in places but nicely supportive of the notions of the brutality of war and damage to the psyche that's manifested through violence towards another. Travolta and De Niro make for quality antagonists. There's an understanding between the men, a welcome and almost amicable camaraderie to begin, a believably difficult hardship and antagonism in the middle, and ultimately an almost surreal chemistry the further the film pushes towards its resolution. De Niro is solid in the part, though Travolta does slow the picture down with his forced accent. Nevertheless, the men build their characters smartly and believably, taking a tale of revenge, survival, and pendulum-like violence that's all refined by the inner character qualities the men expertly build through the prism of the outer violence.
Killing Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Killing Season's high definition transfer won't walk away with any "best of 2013" video awards, but Millennium's transfer appears stable and accurate to the source. A quick bit of housekeeping, first. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, not +/- 2.39:1 (note, however, that the film was photographed in Super 35 if IMDB's page is to be believed). Shot composition does not appear compromised, and the movie never feels cramped. Now, on to picture quality. It's a fairly bland image, at times, particularly in the over-saturated flashbacks. In the present day, however, the photography nicely captures the Appalachian exterior details, revealing complex, intricate textures on trees and terrain. Likewise, wooden cabin walls, liquor bottle labels, and other interior accents appear nicely defined. Facial and clothing textures, too, are well resolved in nearly every scene with a close-up that allows for the complexities to show. The color palette looks fine, even in the warmer, lightly paler interiors. There's not a lot of room for absolute visual brilliance considering the darker cabin accents and heavily wooded terrain, but greens, blood reds, and other assorted hues are presented nicely enough. Black levels are fine, and flesh tones only alter under specific lighting conditions. Though it's a little flat and not particularly bright or varied by its nature, the film looks quite good on Blu-ray.
Killing Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Killing Season features a well-rounded Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track begins strongly, with a sonic build-up that crescendos into an all-out war zone. A deluge of gunfire and explosions pump through the speakers with excellent spacial precision and realistic accuracy. It's a full-on surround extravaganza that nicely contrasts with the more reserved violence to come. When the action shifts back to the mountainous retreat that Ford calls home, the track finds some positive environmental ambience in its exteriors. Thunder and rain elements are well integrated and naturally enveloping, too, notably in the sequence that sees Ford meet Kovac for the first time. Musical balance and clarity are fine, and dialogue plays with the sort of evenness and clarity listeners expect of lossless. All around, this is a good presentation from Millennium Entertainment.
Killing Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Aside from a hodgepodge of Millennium Entertainment title previews, Killing Season contains only one extra. "Killing Season" Featurette (SD, 2:23) is an all-too-brief examination of the film's themes and its story.
Killing Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Killing Season is a well-executed film about the lingering effects of war on man, not so much on the physical man but rather the inner man. It's a tale of how lives change, beliefs change, goals change, and how a snapshot of terror in a larger portrait of violence can redefine two men over the years and bring them together onto a new battlefield, one not necessarily of their own making but one over which they have ultimate control. It's not much of a surprise where the film goes or how it gets there, but it's very well done, quickly paced, and gets the most out of its story's superficialities and deeper themes both. Millennium's Blu-ray release of Killing Season is unfortunately short on extras, but the video and audio qualities are fine. Recommended.
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Killing Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 20-27 - August 17, 2013
For the week of August 20th, Twentieth Century Fox is releasing Epic, the fun, sprightly adaptation of William Joyce's The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Other releases include Season Three of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, the Academy Award-winning Amour, Mark Steven ...
• Killing Season Blu-ray - May 22, 2013
Millennium Entertainment will bring to Blu-ray director Mark Steven Johnson's action thriller Killing Season (2013), starring Robert De Niro, John Travolta, and Milo Ventimiglia. The preliminary release date set by the studio is August 20th.
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