Not rated, but I think that's just because it fell under the radar. There's some violence and language. I mean, "killed" is in the title. I suppose that we should take something from that. Most of the violence is pretty standard until the bigfoot fight. The bigfoot fight makes the fighting a little gross. Bigfoot's fighting style involves pulling and ripping and breaking. But I should put some of this in context. The movie is very quiet and introspective, so don't expect a ton of violence.
DIRECTOR: Robert D. Kryzkowski
This is the kind of film I enjoy writing about. There's some stuff I have to figure out about this movie. I tried figuring these things out on my podcast. The episode comes out tomorrow, so I probably won't link it anywhere here. But The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is almost a study in someone playing a prank on me. Somehow, the movie is both the most self-aware movie and the least self-aware movie that I've ever seen.
Kryzkowski has to know what his title evokes, right? I'm absolutely certain. I don't know why I'm attaching the question afterwards. Kryzkowski told himself that he was going to write a movie with one of the most gutsy titles ever and then he was going to make it a small film. The gall on this man, right? I kind of love it. I don't love the movie. I think it's fine and I'll argue with anyone who absolutely hates it. It's not a perfect film, but there is a big practical joke being played on everyone who watches this movie. I suppose I'm beating around the bush because I don't really know how to address what is going on. With a title like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, there is an certain expectation that this movie is going to be absolutely insane. It evokes feelings of grindhouse filmmaking and b-movie schlock. Even though there is nothing that officially says that this is going to be an ultraviolent movie, I think we all expect something along the lines of Shoot 'Em Up or Natural Born Killers. The title is super rad and on the nose. Instead, the movie is a quiet "think-piece." I don't want to stand by that because "think-piece" is giving the movie way too much credit. But the intention of the movie is to make you think about what the characters are going through rather than waiting for the next moment of insane violence. Yeah, there's violence. But it is all rather tame violence, which makes me think of something very specific. I kind of feel like the movie is trying to punk me. I know I'm not alone when I came into this movie ready to laugh and cheer at the absurdity in front of me. But the movie presents all of the events like a straight up drama. The violence is there just to tell the story. If you were expecting a grindhouse b-movie, you instead got a movie where the violence is really restrained and used exclusively to push the story forward. It is the opposite of exploitation. If you wanted Bubba Ho-Tep, you didn't get it. I get the feeling like the director is sitting over my shoulder and daring me to laugh. If I laugh, I get scolded for not being deep and the think that he's laughing is that I'm not allowed to laugh. It's a very cruel game and I kind of like it.
Sam Elliott, the titular character, did kill Hitler. Light spoiler: He does kill The Bigfoot. But all of this almost seems like an afterthought. This is all intentional. I refuse to let the director off the hook, but I will tell you what it seems like. The director got you through the door with the promise of a movie about a guy who did two of the most bombastic fictional things in history and then the turn happens. It's not about violence. Well, it is. But the story is about introspection. It's about life's choices and dying. It's about what mistakes one makes during life. Before I talk about the quality of that execution, I kind of like the bait-and-switch. Bravo, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. You did something that I wouldn't have the guts to do and you kind of did it as a prank. Before I go too deep into this, the execution is impressive, but not amazing. This movie presents itself to be one of the great historical dramas, despite its absurd premise. But it also feels only okay. Only okay is not allowed for this kind of movie. When this movie doesn't really go into the annals of cinema, there's no surprise why. It is full of "impressive-to-be-impressive" moments. It's a combination of scenes that look artsy-fartsy and therefore it is artsy-fartsy. (I like it. But I don't love it.) But if it is an introspection, I guess I have to analyze the choices of content when it comes to character development. As an aged gentleman, Calvin, played by Sam Elliott, hates what he has done with his life. He carries the burden of killing Hitler with him. The thing that really adds fuel to the fire is that he isn't really allowed to talk about killing Hitler because our history is his history. The assassination of Hitler was apparently a conspiracy because it had no effect on the war. Calvin has done what was thought impossible and no one ever cared. This creates something that I really like. What if you sold your soul for a noble cause? What if, once this noble cause was performed, nobody cared. The Man Who Killed Hitler would make a really interesting movie. The Bigfoot stuff is what kind of stands in the way. As an assassin, Calvin had to witness marches to the death camp. He was undercover. He had the skills to free these people, but in that scenario, Hitler would live. He saw all of these atrocities and he had to sacrifice it all for something that was ultimately fruitless. This is where Kryzkowski kind of drops the ball. I had to meet him more than halfway to get this interpretation. There's a scene where Calvin as a young man walks innocently, disguised as an SS officer, between a line of Jews being herded onto trains. Because he is undercover, he is not allowed to show emotion. As an older Calvin, Sam Elliott seems uncomfortable with the things that he has done. I had to make that leap that it was moments like walking amongst the trains that really messed him up in the long run. There needs to be a direct connection. I'm kind of imbuing Calvin with this moment because I'm trying to give these moments meaning. These scenes are in the movie for a reason. What I honestly think is going on is that there is an expectation placed upon the war film. There have to be certain scenes in the movie if the war film is to be taken seriously. But this moment seems distantly removed from the protagonist's inner conflict. Instead, the film vocalizes Calvin's angst at taking someone else's life. I get that. I don't deny that is the central issue to Calvin. But why would Calvin be carrying this weight on his shoulders when no one else would? Wouldn't many soldiers be dealing with this issue? If Calvin's big beef was that he never could cope with the killing, that's something that he should be working through in a support group. The fact that it is Hitler is arbitrary. But, if the connection was that he made some absolutely soul killing sacrifices to get to Adolf Hitler and nobody cared, there's a story there?
And that's where the disconnect kind of happens. Kryzkowski puts a lot of pieces in front of us and doesn't really connect them. There's this great scene that goes on for a bit too long in the first half of the movie. A Russian is shaving Calvin with a straight edged razor. This isn't the first time I've seen this scenario in a movie and hopefully it won't be my last (RIP: Tim Hruszkewycz, whose last review was The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. What a dismount!). It's really well shot, but it ultimately has no connection into the inner conflict. Instead, it is just a scene that war movies contain. There is a way to make this movie and make it really good. Sure, it's gutsy. I want to talk about how gutsy it is in a minute, but what makes a good movie isn't what scenes are in it. It is how everything contributes to the overall story. In high school, I wanted to film Hamlet. In my head, I could film a movie that was cinema quality on my parents' camcorder. (Now you know how old I am.) But in my head, it was a series of rad shots. I know how that film would turn out, even if I had the technical prowess to pull it off. It would feel wildly disjointed because I would have tonally weird moments because not everything contributed to the whole. Instead of the bombastic Hamlet that I would have made, Kryzkowski kind of makes the movie that is full of Oscar clips. You know when someone is up for an award and it shows a clip of how glorious the movie actually is? Those clips are great because they are the culmination of a lot of scenes intricately woven together. Yes, that scene is awesome because we've earned that scene through many other scenes. Rather, these are really well made scenes that just kind of are in there. I'm already doing more of the work by writing this much about these scene. Think of your Tom, Dick, and Harries out there. Sure, a movie like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is bound to get more blog space than other movies because it is only film snobs who go to see these movies. But a solid movie like this should require thought, but not heavy lifting. It should be argued about, not forced to make logical jumps.
I was talking about how gutsy it is to make this movie. It's target audience is bound not to like it. But there's another element that makes it a little bit weird. There's a few movies that really try to do this and I'm intrigued what inspires people to make movies like this. I think there's a Kickstarter for a game called "Pitch Me" or something like that. The game gives a series of Apples to Apples style cards and the combination of cards gives a loose plot. The plot should be absurd. But the point of the game is to pitch a detailed version of that script that may make it seem plausible. You want someone to buy your movie. Now, considering this is a game, the point is to not actually pitch a movie like that. When we pitch, I imagine that you want something that can actually be pulled off. I'm sure that filmmakers aren't trying to create hoops for themselves to jump through. Regular filmmaking is hard enough, so why add the extra steps between here and a good movie. But that's what a few movies like this are actually doing. They add these bombastic challenges to the story and the only thing that we actually applaud is if they pulled it off. In this case, Kryzkowski wanted to make a movie where we got past the sense of irony clearly apparent in the premise and sat down to enjoy a movie that stood on its own two feet. I don't know. Yeah, Kryzkowski showed he could make a cinematically pretty movie. But that giant obstacle is constantly there to remind us that the movie is premise. Technically, it did its job. But by setting such a high bar, it is actually lowering the bar for overall cultural penetration. Instead, the movie kind of just becomes this gimmick that is worth watching, but not really worth remembering. Technical achievement is great. But few people watch for the impressiveness of a movie. There should be something masterful about every element of the film and that's not really here.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.