Lovers of literature say “never judge a book by its cover”. I think with a slight modification you could also apply this to cinema; “never judge a film by its title.” The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is a story about a war veteran who is called upon once more to serve his country by hunting down and killing Bigfoot. Sounds like the stuff B-movies are made of, but in this case it is so much more.
Director and Writer Robert D. Krzykowski gives us a far deeper and more moving story than the title suggests. The script is an exploration into the past of Calvin Barr, a man who is having trouble dealing with his past and getting older in the present. We jump back and forth between the past and present, learning just how badass Calvin was and still is. We also learn why he is carrying the heavy weight of regret on his shoulders. All of this is beautifully portrayed by Sam Elliott as present-day Calvin, and by Aidan Turner as the younger Calvin.
Aidan Turner does a solid job as the young man heading to war and doing whatever is asked of him by his country, regardless of the cost. He also plays the right amount of awkwardness in his scenes with Caitlin FitzGerald’s Maxine, Calvin’s true love. These two make you sympathetic towards them and the tough situation they are in. Turner also manages to capture enough of Sam Elliott’s mannerisms and speech cadence to convince the audience that the actors are one and the same character.
Sam Elliott performed every scene with such gravitas that I found myself completely engrossed in everything he did. Whether Calvin was walking his dog, taking his medication, or showing how much he can still kick ass, I enjoyed each scene. He made you feel his weight of regret, exhaustion, frustration, and anger. His presence fills the screen every time you see him. One of my favorite scenes is where Calvin is at his dining room table with two FBI agents, played by Ron Livingston and Rizwan Manji. The monologue that Elliot delivers had me hanging on every word and literally made the hairs on my arm stand up with chills. It was just three men at a table but Elliott made it so much more. I truly think this film would not have been half as powerful if someone else was playing the elder Calvin Bar.
I thought Robert D. Krzykowski direction was excellent. Whether it is simply two men in a room talking, or a young Calvin getting a shave, the tension Krzykowski gives these scenes makes you realize why they are the most vivid of Calvin’s memories. He also manages to pepper in just a dash of humor at the right time to help keep the film from being too heavy. The music does a beautiful job punctuating the emotions of the film. It is a full orchestral sound that I was pleasantly surprised to hear. I hope they eventually make it available to purchase as it is music that is worth listening to again and again. The cinematography was stunning at times. While some of the shots were not that involved, others were captivating and made me wish they were on screen longer than they were.
You may be wondering about the Bigfoot part of the film. Well, Robert Krzykowski’s writing and Sam Elliott’s performance grounds these scenes and I found a number of them downright scary. Some people may be disappointed that there is not as much Bigfoot action as they were expecting, but I felt there was just the right amount. While Hitler and Bigfoot are both in the title, this film is more of a character exploration into a man’s decision over wallowing in regret by dwelling on the past or choosing to fight on and make the most out of his remaining years.
There is really only one standout issue I had with the film and that was in the editing. A number of the conversations involved too many cuts back and forth between the two people talking. This was surprising considering how well the rest of the film was shot. There is also one scene involving the Bigfoot where I thought the beast could have looked better but overall I enjoyed the makeup that was done for the creature.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is a must-see indie film if, for nothing else, the performance of Sam Elliott. I can honestly say I did not expect this film to connect with me as much as it did. I went in thinking we were going to get a tongue in cheek ode to war and monster films. What I got was a dramatic character piece with suspense, action, humor, and depth that moved me emotionally. This movie is definitely more than the sum of its marquee.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is out in theaters, V.O.D. and Digital HD February 8th.