It'll make you wish for the Face/Off sequel that this could have been
Killing Season Blu-ray Review
Unnecessarily gratuitous, and with an equally torturous narrative, this botched attempt at reflecting the pointlessness of war through the narrow focus of a one-on-one conflict between two old war veterans misses almost all of its targets.Providing yet more ammunition to fuel the notion that De Niro also has more misses than hits these days, and doing little for Travolta’s subsisting career either, it’s difficult to see how either of them agreed to do this movie.
Looking below the surface, however, and squinting slightly when you look, it is possible to see some semblance of a good idea buried deep beneath the horrific violence, tepid action/survival sequences, and limited-scope narrative arc.
Unfortunately the limited budget, lacklustre direction and overt real-life animosity between the two lead actors robs the end product of absolutely anything worthwhile; anything watchable even.The story involves Travolta – sporting a strangely stylised beard and an even stranger accent – as a Serbia war criminal who hunts down the man who shot him in the head and left him for dead, De Niro’s retired US Colonel, and challenges him to a strange one-on-one battle of wits (and arrows), attempting to find some truth and resolution before he kills his arch-enemy.
Despite some fleeting on-paper promise, the film is largely crippled by its quest to provide visceral action-orientated thrills and also deliver some substantive narrative arc which offers interesting commentary on the pointlessness of war. Neither element works well at all, and they certainly don’t well together when combined together, particularly in such an inept fashion
There’s little reward to enduring Killing Season, and the almost-torture porn horror elements are enough to make the experience actually quite unpleasant.
What is Killing Season Blu-ray Picture QuailityLionsgate’s long-overdue Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Killing Season at doesn’t make the same mistakes that Millennium’s US Region A-locked counterpart did by not only cropping the movie down from its original aspect ratio to 1.78:1, but also delivering it with a Dolby TrueHD track rather than the oft-preferred, now-standard DTS-HD MA.
Here the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, courtesy of a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video rendition which still does not escape the same source-related limitations that afflicted the US disc, but nonetheless looks better in its broader scope. Detail is generally very good indeed, occasionally even excellent, with strong facial observations, skin texture, clothing weaves and background and set flourishes; the cabins, ruins, waterfall and woods all boasting superior fine object detail. The trouble, I think, comes from the desire to tweak and digitally manipulate some shots. The opening sequence isn’t really an issue – an over-saturated flashback – but there's a few shots here and there where skin tones don’t look quite the right colour and the image doesn’t match up with the rest of it.
It’s a solid presentation considering the limitations of the material itself, but far from anything to write home about.
The colour scheme is too restricted by the material, but the Appalachian vistas look largely sumptuous, again benefiting from the broader aspect ratio, and the natural wilderness looks far more impressive than the rest of the elements on offer. Wood tones are presented the best, whilst blood tones don’t always look that authentic, no doubt because much of the blood has been added CG splatter. Black levels are also a little variable, particularly during the night scenes (which, again, look like enchanced day-for-night shots more often than not), flitting from dark and all-absorbing to a disappointing shade of grey.
Lionsgate don’t have a great reputation when it comes to video presentations and, unfortunately, this isn’t going to change that. But the truth is that – at least this time – it really isn’t their fault; the source material is clearly to blame, and, if anything, they’ve done well to improve upon the previous incorrectly-framed US release.
How Does Killing Season Blu-ray SoundSimilarly changing things up for the aural side of things, Lionsgate have opted for the preferred DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for this release, which, whilst no more or less lossless, is generally favoured these days over the now-seldom-used Dolby TrueHD counterpart. Really, though, the tracks are identical, providing thunderous thrills with some decent enough attention to detail, but, overall, not enough to justify slotting this into any kind of demo category.
Decent sound design and a generic but engaging score help make this a punchy if far from demo worthy offering.
Dialogue is given clear and coherent precedence across the front and centre channels, remaining a strong presence throughout in spite of the variable vocals on offer - from whispers to screams and shouts. Effects are often quite impressive, with some decent surround usage, arrows whizzing around, crackling leaves in the trees, wind blowing, water thrashing down the 'falls, and creaking timbers. LFE input is largely saved for the score, which is quite a punishing, generic piece, but which still helps propel the film along, particularly during the more horror/survival moments.
Killing Season Blu-ray ExtrasJust a couple of minutes of EPK fluff, although I guess we should be grateful that we even got interview snippets from both of the main stars – which, in both cases, is a relative rarity.
Is Killing Season Blu-ray Worth BuyingWasting De Niro and even Travolta, this botched attempt to do a double-headed survival actioner - with a message - is a rather unpleasant watch, mainly because of the torture-porn horror elements, but also because it meaders around doing little and with very little to say.
The have-your-cake-and-eat-it approach to blending survival-action-thrills with thoughtful war commentary just doesn't work.
Thankfully at least Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK disc bests the preceding Region A-locked US counterpart - even if it's a year too late - framing the movie in its original theatrical aspect ratio, and sporting a DTS-HD track to boot. With the same extras, this will likely be regarded as the better purchase, for those few fans out there. To everybody else, a rental if you must.
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