The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot is a movie that promises a great deal from its title alone. You instantly imagine a gonzo genre flick that will not only offer violent, revisionist history, but also an epic showdown with cryptozoology’s greatest icon. When you learn that beloved character actor Sam Elliott is playing this titular man, your expectations understandably skyrocket. For all of the above reasons, the world premiere of writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski’s debut feature was a hotly sought ticket at the Fantasia International Film Festival. At a packed house, audiences howled with excitement as Elliott came onstage beforehand to introduce the film, and cheered when he first appeared onscreen. There’s just one problem: The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot doesn’t totally deliver on the promise implied by its title.
Don’t get me wrong. This is the story of an American soldier who bravely went undercover in Nazi territory and assassinated the infamous genocidal dictator. This is the story of how he came out of retirement for one last job, hunting down the elusive Bigfoot and murdering the mythic beast to prevent its deadly “nightmare plague” from spreading beyond the untamed wilderness. Where things get wonky is in its tone. The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot is shockingly restrained and only bonkers in bursts. Because at its core, The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot isn’t about these outrageous adventures of world-saving assassinations, but instead about regret and the girl who got away.
A surprisingly tender, baroque genre movie, The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot offers us an outlandish hero and a pair of wild adventures. But like in Logan, its legendary warrior has grown tired of the battle, wonders what it was worth, and fears there is no washing away the blood on his hands. The film begins with Calvin Barr (Elliott) as a lonely retiree, who spends his nights in an empty dive bar, and his days watching TV alongside his dog. In flashbacks, we see a Young Calvin (a charming Aidan Turner) poised to ship off for World War II service, but falling hard for a compassionate schoolteacher named Maxine (a sparkling Caitlin FitzGerald). Their chemistry is warm as a summer’s day, whether they’re flirting over a romantic dinner, late night walks, and talks about whether there is “winning” in war. On their last night together before he ships off, he plans to propose. But fate intervenes, and their love story is cut woefully short.
As an old man whom the world sees as weak, Calvin faces disrespect, barbs, and an attempted mugging. And with each, he shows he is still a fighter, but the fire in his heart is going out. Elliott wears Calvin’s world-weariness well, like a broken-in leather duster, heavy, haggard, musky, and masculine. And he ably handles the fight scenes, be it brawling with a trio of gun-toting punks, or a prolonged and brutal battle with Bigfoot. But there’s a melancholy edging his performance, bolstered by the film’s somber tone. There are moments of self-aware silliness, like when Ron Livingston, playing an American operative, says with a comical sternness, “THE Bigfoot.” But there’s a surprising lack of lunacy or camp outside of the basic premise. The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot is less mental, and more ferociously sentimental, always swinging back to the love story and Calvin’s remorse over love lost.
From the title, the premise, and even its first poster, audiences will likely expect a film in the vein of Inglorious Basterds, violent, gory, goofy revisionist history with the bonus of a man vs Bigfoot showdown. But The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot has none of the gleeful gore, crassness, or irreverent humor of Tarantino. Calvin Barr doesn’t relish cutting the violence he commits and he doesn’t curse. When pushed to fight, he laments, “For Pete’s sakes.” His masculinity is not the over-the-top, muscle-bound, spitting, cussing variety of a long line of man-of-action movies. It’s quieter, more clean-cut, but no less manly. There’s grace in his “special shave,” tenderness in his barber shop visit, and vulnerability as he takes a knee to propose. All of this sentimentality combined with its meditation on aging and regret, makes The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot feel like a cross between Inglorious Basterds and Cocoon.
It’s a bold move from Krzykowski. And it demands a lot of patience from an audience. Because while you’ll get the kooky killings promised in the title, they are not the film’s true focus. There is virtually no time spent on the hunt for Bigfoot, which seems a wasted opportunity for brewing suspense. Then, their showdown is less thrilling and more distressing, a weathered old man wailing on a plague-ridden beast. Weaving between past and present, and winding into one scene after another that’s far more about emotional stakes than dramatic ones, this genre film strives for a sophisticated vibe, that’s jarring for its content. It’s surprisingly sweet, undeniably slow, and at times poetically ambiguous. Which earned The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot a mixed reception at its premiere. But there’s something fascinating about Krzykowski’s emotionally fraught spin on a B-movie premise. I’m not sure it works, but I admire the experiment.
The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot made its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.
Header Image Source: RLJE Films