It might well prove to be the shock of the year (nay, the decade), that a film with such a long-winded, genre-baiting title is, in fact, one of the most brilliantly performed and written character dramas in quite some time. Robert D. Kryzkowski’s feature debut stars top-notch talent Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner, is scored by Christopher McQuarrie’s go-to composer Joe Kraemer, and very much feels like the sort of thing Spielberg might’ve made in the 1980s. But it’s also about Bigfoot. In fact, in many ways, in taking its subject and its plot-line so deadly, deadly seriously, it proves to be every bit as mental as its title promises.
Elliott is Calvin Barr, a quietly legendary American soldier who yes, once upon a time, was the guy who shot Hitler in the face – although it’s worth noting that Kryzkowski doesn’t play fast and loose with WW2 history quite as much as Quentin Tarantino did. The heftiest portion of the film takes place some time in the 1980s, as Barr looks over his life, now an old man, questioning if he ever made anything of himself. The wavering lament of a true American hero, and the price one pays for being so.
Peppered with plenty of 40s-themed flashback (with Turner stepping in as the younger Barr), the large majority shifts around the aching drama of the things he left behind. It’s a deep, patient, and thoughtful dissection of the sort of big-screen, comic-strip heroes that formed the very backbone of American cinema, and Sam Elliott surrenders his very soul on screen in service of it. If it wasn’t for the over-bearing title-card, we might well be talking Oscar territory here.
But then about half-way through, old-man Barr goes off to fight a stunt-man in a Star Trek-style rubber-suit and it all goes a bit silly again. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of retro adventure, and there’s no denying that even at 74, Elliott’s still very easily built for it. But considering the healthy hour of soulful pre-amble, to suddenly switch gears into an exploitation-style creature-feature just feels a little – well, totally – off. The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then Bigfoot is a film that desperately wants you to take both it and its stars seriously. Until all of a sudden, it doesn’t.
Kraemer’s scoring certainly keeps the action elevated, even when the plotting turns to the silly side, and Kryzkowski’s script is absolute music to the ears, despite some of the finest words of wisdom being spoken while sifting through Sasquatch shit.
Kryzkowski’s film is a total left-turn of a release; as ambitious as it is ridiculous, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it doesn’t have the tiniest clue who its audience is, I’d be happily throwing down money on its chances come awards season. As is though, this is simply just one beautiful mess of a picture – like Predator written by the Coen Brothers. Or Gran Torino, if Clint Eastwood had suddenly changed his mind half-way through and decided to go back to making action movies.
The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot was screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2018.