Monday, 15 April 2019

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT review

Starring Sam Elliott and his recently Oscar-nommed moustache, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is out now on VOD with a DVD/Blu-ray release on 6th May.



Your enjoyment of The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot will very much depend on your expectations of it. If you are going into this expecting some sort of pulpy, Uwe Boll directed alternative history with zombies dressed in Nazi uniforms and secret space stations on the moon, you'll be sorely disappointed. However, if you have an open mind and are intrigued by the presence of Sam Elliott and Aidan Turner, or perhaps the names of indie veteran John Sayles & special effects legend Douglas Trumbull on the list of producers, then you may be pleasantly surprised by this low key but thought provoking gem. As plainly said by Elliott's Calvin mid way through the film, "it's nothing like the comic book you want it to be".

Starting in the late 1980s, Calvin Barr (Elliott) is a man haunted by his past actions during the Second World War. Carrying the burden of his secret with him for the last 45 years, he is struggling to reconcile his actions as a younger man, even if they were for the greater good. Flashing back to the 1940s, a confrontation is teased between a young Calvin (Turner) and an unknown figure surrounded by Gestapo officers. If you've got this far I'm sure you've read the title, so the reveal will come as little surprise to most. Back in the 80s, old Calvin tries to bond with his younger brother Ed (Larry Miller), before receiving a visit from a couple of government agents with another assassination job that only he can do. There's a killer in the Canadian Mountains that's carrying a disease that could feasibly wipe out all of humanity... The Bigfoot.

Okay, the first thing that needs addressing is the Bigfoot in the room. That title. Perhaps so many years of lacklustre, schlocky, straight to DVD crapfests have warped my mind into expecting nothing more than the bare minimum from a certain kind of title, but is it fair that this film may suffer as a result of low expectations? In terms of creating intrigue about a film, there's an argument that this has the greatest film title of all time (an argument put forward by Larry Miller in the extra features), and for sure this is a film that immediately becomes a talking point by subverting those expectations and delivering a genuinely interesting study of grief with a sweet romance as a backdrop. It's impossible to argue with the Ronseal nature of the title, which is (spoiler alert) an accurate description of what happens in the film, so perhaps it's best to sidestep the title and concentrate on the story.

The Man Who... tightrope walks a mixture of tones (Inglorious Basterds in the war scenes and The Notebook in the later scenes) before turning into a monster hunt with a dash of The Old Man and The Gun thrown in; but surprisingly it keeps its balance, never teetering over into campness nor soppy melodrama. Poldark's Aidan Turner is not an immediately obvious choice to play a younger Sam Elliott, but in their respective timelines they together inhabit the character of Calvin well, both before and after his time in the war. Turner gets to have an old fashioned romance with school teacher Maxine (Masters of Sex's Caitlin Fitzgerald), before heading off to war and coming back a changed man, and Elliott's iteration gets a renewed purpose in life care of the government that covered up the truth of his mission all those years ago.

There's no avoiding the fact that The Man Who....'s title is such a literal behemoth that it may overshadow what is at heart a rather lovely surprise of a film. The cast are all on top form and, in what could have easily been disposable genre fare, keep the drama grounded in reality, even when the story takes a turn for the fantastic. I'm sure the casting of Elliott and Turner will help this find an audience, but here's hoping this finds one appreciative of its eccentric charm, perhaps drawn in by the lunacy of that title but captivated by the subtlety of the performances.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot delivers on the promise of its name, but surprises by how deep and affecting a story it has at its heart. It may be an oddity, but it's an easy one to recommend.

Verdict
4/5



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