Saturday, July 27, 2013

Killing Season: Thank you Mark Steven Johnson!

Saturday Flick

Image Courtesy: Google
“We are both killers. We are the same, you and I.”— Emil Kovac to Benjamin Ford.

“A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wanderlust who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out.”
[“Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” by Johnny Cash]

Killing Season is released in 2013 under the label action thriller. However, this movie is a search into the heart of war and peace. The binary of the hunter and the hunted fixes an existential angel on this movie. Through its storytelling, Killing Season raises pointers towards the dilemma in the line of separation between the victim and the victimizer.

The story is etched through the journey of a revenge, sought by a Bosnian ex-terrorist, Emil Kovac, played by John Travolta, who comes to the US to ‘hunt’ the army officer responsible for the killing of his friends as well as his own physical paralysis. Emil Kovac’s paralysis signifies not just a physical one, which he undergoes after being shot in the neck by Ford, in the post-war shooting of war prisoners. Emil is also paralyzed emotionally and seeks for redemption in his act of seeking vengeance.

“He laughed and kissed his mom
And said your Billy Joe's a man
I can shoot as quick and straight as anybody can
But I wouldn't shoot without a cause
I'd gun nobody down
But she cried again as he rode away.”

The start of the movie is with a bloody and ferocious battle scene. This prologue ends with the scene in which war prisoners, known by the name ‘scorpions’ are being shot at the head. This is a particularly disturbing part.  
Image Courtesy: Google

All Emil Kovac wants from Benjamin Ford is a confession before he kills Benjamin Ford. Killing Season is full of religious and existential symbolism. When cinematography supports such a fine artistic attempt from the part the writer, alchemy is set in motion. All we see until the end is the wonderful result of this alchemy. The movie is written by Evan Daugherty, and every dialogue is pearl and rubies. This aspect raises the movie above the usual good Vs bad and pro-American Vs anti-American movies.  

“He sang a song as on he rode
His guns hung at his hips
He rode into a cattle town
A smile upon his lips
He stopped and walked into a bar
And laid his money down
But his mother's words echoed again.”

Along with the wonderful story line, thematic excellence, and directorial majesty, what hooked me through to the end was the music of the movie. The melodious songs tear a muscle fiber from your heart and leave you pained until the end. The southern accent of De Niro and the background country music makes it all the more a matter close to heart.

Violence and revenge are the two motifs that carry the story forward, with the two powerful and original characters. The movie gives enough time in developing Benjamin Ford’s character, but it never lags or bores. I have come across negative reviews on this movie, though; many criticizing for the lack of motive in the blatant attempts by Kovac’s to help Ford and later coming after him for taking the revenge. It is clear that the underlying discourse of hunter and the hunted is mistaken to be the bleak side of the story.  

“He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself he had become a man
A dusty cowpoke at his side began to laugh him down
And he heard again his mothers words.”

Do you remember Midnight Run, the 1988 film by De Niro? Killing Season is one among his best. It is a quality movie with Midnight Run running in its veins, no question, even if it is not so for some viewers. I watched a very good movie, after a long time. Killing Season is produced by Twentieth Century Fox and directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

“Filled with rage then
Billy Joe reached for his gun to draw
But the stranger drew his gun and fired
Before he even saw
As Billy Joe fell to the floor
The crowd all gathered 'round
And wondered at his final words.”
                                  Johnny Cash - Don't Take Your Guns To Town
  Song Courtesy: Johnny Cash.

About Anu Lal
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Anu Lal is the author of Wall of Colors and Other Stories. He lives in Kerala, South India. He blogs at The Indian Commentator 
You can catch up with him in Facebook too.      

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