The sight of seasoned legends Robert De Niro, 69, and John Travolta, 59, sharing the screen for the first time is probably Killing Season’s only selling point. The sadistically violent and over-the-top one-note thriller comes across as nothing more than a dubious paycheck job for aging stars who still want to play action heroes. The preposterous casting stunt (Travolta playing a Serbian war criminal?) only remains interesting for the first thirty minutes before the cracks start to surface. From there on it becomes a mano-a-mano between two grandpas chasing each other through the Appalachian woods. Not pretty at all.
The clichéd story is already set out before the first opening credits roll out. A prelude of a war between Bosnia and the U.S. ends in a mass execution. Flashing twenty years forward to the present, we discover that former soldier Emil Kovac (Travolta) is the only survivor of the slaying. He has spent the last two decades searching for his executioner, Benjamin Ford (De Niro), and finally receives information about his whereabouts. Bent on revenge, he decides to “go hunting”. Meanwhile, Ford has become a loner. Separated from family and friends, he spends most of his time in the woods taking photographs of wild animals. When the two finally meet up, they discover an unusual friendship. But during a hunting expedition Kovac reveals his true identity. What ensues is a cat and mouse chase through beautiful scenery.
Originally named Shrapnel, the film was meant to see a team up between Travolta and Nicolas Cage under the direction of John McTiernan. While that film sounds more promising, Killing Season isn’t completely worthless. It has its moments, but very few and far between. De Niro just looks miserable and tired for the film’s duration. Shame. He just doesn’t have the physique for this sort of thing anymore.