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THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT (2018) review

February 8, 2019

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written by: Robert D. Krzykowski
produced by: Robert D. Krzykowski, Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson
directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski
rated: not rated
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: July 20, 2018 (Fantasia Fest) and February 8, 2019 (limited, AMC Woodridge, Digital HD & VOD)

 

You’d never know from the attention-grabbing title that there’s a love story at the heart of “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot”, but that’s what lingers long after viewing. Don’t worry, you’ll get what you came for – there is a man who does indeed kill both of those iconic figures – but after you scratch your head or chuckle at the title, you’ll be glad there’s more going on here than those two kills. At this point, the draw of watching Sam Elliott in anything will catch my attention and what transpires here, especially the titular events, isn’t nearly as fascinating as what takes place between those notable kills with Elliott. While it may not deliver the outlandish scenario that writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski is selling, at least it offers a somber look at pain and regret as portrayed by an actor everyone loves.

Krzykowski’s story takes place in the 80s, when we’re introduced to Calvin Barr (Elliott), an American living in a small town near the Canadian border, who whiles his days with the company of his loyal dog and a seat alongside his local bar. His apparent secrecy makes him a curious draw, and the fact that Calvin can often be found staring into his drink or drifting off in thought while reading a book, makes one think there’s more going on internally than one would think.

 

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Indeed his thoughts are primarily of his past, specifically a time back in World War II when he served as a special operative who was assigned a special mission to infiltrate a secret Nazi location and assassinate Adolph Hitler. Along with the detailed memory of that event, we’re also privy to Calvin’s (played by Aidan Turner) romance with a Maxine (Caitlin Fitzgerald) a schoolteacher his age, with whom he reciprocates strong feelings for. Unfortunately, there was something keeping Calving from reuniting with Caitlin after his tour of duty and that could primarily be due to the traumatic effect the war had on him, in particular that special mission which labeled him a hero by many.

When we return to Calvin in his present, we begin to have a better understanding of his solemn pain and depression, especially as he expresses how emotionally distraught he was over taking a life, but it seems like most of his regret comes from “the one that got away” as his twilight years cause him to reflect on what he’s lost in life. Now and then, he’ll stop in on his supportive younger brother, Ed (Larry Miller), who runs a barbershop in town, someone Calvin trusts despite a certain distance that’s developed over the years between the two siblings.  Calvin remains trapped between the fragments of his past and the desolate loneliness of his present and possible future.

His daily patterns are interrupted when he receives a knock at his door. Two men ask if they can come in and talk to Calvin, one is named Red Flag (Ron Livingston) from the FBI and the other is a Canadian secret serviceman who goes by Maple Leaf (Rizwan Manji), both of whom have heard tall tales of the man who supposedly ended World War II. They’ve come to recruit Calvin for another special mission, one that requires his formidable hunting skills to track down The Bigfoot, who is reportedly residing in the Canadian wilderness carrying a deadly virus that could potentially plague all life on the planet. Of course, Calvin takes the offer and maybe in doing so it will distract from his past.

 

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Midway through “Hitler/Bigfoot” (yeah, I’m not about to type all that out each time I’m inclined to mention the title), during that chat with the two recruiting men, there’s a meta-line that Elliot utters in his recognizable baritone, “It’s nothing like the comic book you want it to be,” and the veteran actor might as well be turning to the audience with such a line. It’s surprising and strange that in a film that touts two major kills in its title, a dinner table is the best of several fascinating exchanges that don’t involve violent acts.

Whatever expectations viewers bring to the film will no doubt be squashed by the time this story ends. This is not the grindhouse genre picture the title and poster make it out to be or the one you may fantasize about considering it’s Elliott doing the killing. Who wouldn’t want to see the veteran actor terminate both a historical villain and a mythical figure? That’s just one of the many questions that will inevitably surface as the story unfolds. Most of those questions will pertain to the World War II flashbacks. Why was Calvin chosen for the special mission? What was it about him that made him the right man for the job? Why didn’t Calvin pursue Caitlin once he returned from the war? When did Calvin develop this aversion to taking a life, when that’s what he’s good at and became known for?

Some of these questions are addressed, but in the most vague and under-the-radar manner. Since we’re so invested in Calvin – whether he’s played by Turner or Elliott – the story definitely could’ve benefited from a more detailed look at the two important relationships in Calvin’s life, the one he had with Caitlin and his lifelong one with his brother Ed. If Calvin distanced himself from both of them, then why? Again with the questions.

 

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Despite these questions, “Hitler/Bigfoot” had me transfixed by a handful of character interaction scenes laced throughout the story that occur in the past and present. There’s a scene where a Russian resistance leader (Nikolai Tsankov) concludes an interview with a bearded Calvin by shaving the operative’s face with a straight razor. It’s an interesting way to test Calvin’s mettle prior to his mission while subverting audience expectations. In the present, there’s a seemingly random scene in which Calvin returns a winning gambling ticket he found on the ground to a convenience store clerk (Ellar Coltrane “Boyhood”) which highlights our protagonists sense of honor and handling of lucky circumstance. These two scenes, along with the dinner table scene and the couple of conversations Calvin has with Ed resonate the most and that may surprise those who came to the film hoping for something strange and crazy. In each scene, Krzykowski is mindful with timing and pacing, taking a careful approach to character development within each conversation Calvin has.

While Elliott is unsurprisingly and absolutely the selling point and major draw of “Hitler/Bigfoot”, it was an utter surprise to see how uncanny Turner was at portraying Calvin of the 40s. There’s no getting around that the actor had to sell a younger Elliott more he did a younger Calvin. By using certain mannerisms, body language and select line delivery, one could easily see how Turner could grow into Elliott. We even get indications of some of the quite reflective mannerisms Elliot will eventually communicate. It reminded me of how mindful and attentive Ewan MacGregor was in his portrayal of a young Alec Guinness in the Star Wars prequels.

 

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The most bizarre and kind of cool part of the film is the actual hunt for “The Bigfoot”. You’ve never seen a Bigfoot look like this and I guess that’s a good thing, but it’s also adds an oddity to the picture that it didn’t have before. The cool part of it all is just seeing Elliott’s Calvin just get dropped in the woods with a rifle and knife and racing through dense terrain to track down his furry prey. Granted, it’s probably just cool for fans of Elliott, but who isn’t?

“Hitler/Bigfoot” may not be the movie you expect it to be and that could be a good thing if only certain aspects of the story were developed a little more. Krzykowski deserves credit for making something unique and original, steering clear form camp or gratuitous violence or mania. He’s assisted by veteran visual effects artist Douglas Trumball (“2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and “Blade Runner”) as well as fine work from cinematographer Alex Vendler and a complimentary score from Joe Kraemer. It’s a movie that wisely allows Elliott to effortlessly do what he does best front and center and most of the time that supersedes any misgivings I have toward certain aspects of the screenplay.

 

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RATING: **1/2

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