Take a moment to consider how you would imagine a movie about cowboy-ideal-personified Sam Elliott as a man who kills both Hitler and Bigfoot in that order. Fire, tanks, action, Nazis, and then two major showdowns against one of the world’s greatest evils and a mythical creature. To sum it up in a single word — cool.
There’s this comic book, grindhouse excitement attached to the idea, which is exacerbated by the movie’s very 70’s inspired poster art. With a title like that, you know you’re in for a good time.
But you’re not. You’re not at all in for a good time. A better title for this would be The Man Who Is Sad About Killing and Was in Love Once.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot
Director: Robert D. Krzykowski
Release Date: July 20th, 2018 (Fantasia)
Calvin (Sam Elliott) is an elderly war veteran whiling away his retirement in solitude. The first half of the film shows his wanderings through town, looking at stuff. And when he looks at things, he remembers. This triggers flashbacks in which we see a young Calvin as a soldier in WWII. Not that we see any actual warfare. We see him impersonating a Nazi, checking his swastika watch, and entering a building. We see that every time he gives a salute, he crosses his fingers behind his back. Which, I mean, if you’re going to be a spy that’s kind of a dead giveaway, man. These flashbacks are few and normally short, so the bulk of the time is spent with Calvin as he sits on a bench, sits at home, sits at a bar, sits to get his hair cut, tries to get a rock out of his shoe, and returns a lottery ticket to a convenience store. Riveting.
Most of the flashbacks aren’t concerned with the war but rather a romance he had before departing. This would be fine if the romance wasn’t as trite as most of the film. Because of the choppy nature of flashbacks, we only see Calvin meet her and then he’s about to propose to her, and then he’s about to leave for the war. There’s no time to develop a real relationship. We’re only told that she was a great woman whom he was apparently so in love with that he could never be with another. But we’re only given a short checklist of young-couple-in-love scenes, and so it doesn’t feel genuine or compelling.
And that’s the greatest issue with The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot. Because scenes are so diced up and constricted, it feels more like a summary of a movie than an actual film.
Details are glossed over at every conceivable point. When FBI agents arrive to recruit Calvin to help them kill Bigfoot, one explains that his grandfather used to tell him all sorts of amazing stories about Calvin during the war and the unbelievable things he did. He doesn’t offer any details, which I would have loved to hear. Flashbacks give us barely any idea what Calvin did in the war, and by Calvin’s own admission the only person he killed was Hitler. The Hitler scene, by the way, is an anti-climax without any semblance of excitement or tension. What happened to Calvin’s girlfriend while he was at war is explained in a vague way, and this briefcase which seems to be connected to her, Calvin almost opens a few times, but its contents are never revealed.
So, then Calvin agrees to track and kill Bigfoot, and he walks into a room containing an assortment of weapons. He pulls a knife from the wall, and the camera does this very grindhouse quick-zoom to signal a possible change of tone from the self-serious movie that seems to begrudge its own concept to one that embraces it more. But it doesn’t. Not really, anyway. He tracks Bigfoot for a while, and the showdown it leads to is better than Hitler but still odd in its own right.
First off, Bigfoot is nowhere near intimidating. It couldn’t be more man-in-a-suit if it were a 60’s sci-fi movie. Their battle is shot in quick cuts that lack any drama. It honestly looks like Sam Elliot wrestling a dude in an ape suit in the woods behind someone’s house. And I’m not sure if that’s the point. Is it being played for campy laughs? Is this meant to be the excitement we were waiting for? The scene ends in blood and vomit, and it’s just so bizarre. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. It just feels nothing like the rest of the movie, and after that maybe-three-minute moment is over, the tone returns to demure drama.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot does little more than check the boxes to make sure it can use that title. It’s more interested in the ruminations of an old veteran sleepwalking through life with only brief snippets of the war that changed him and the love he lost. The movie is vague, unenthusiastic, and certainly would have benefited from being told in one solid piece rather than a collage of flashbacks. Nothing comes together, nothing feels earned, and I have a hard time imagining anyone who wouldn’t be disappointed by it.