Released: 8th February
Seen: 12th August
Sometimes a film title tells you everything that you need to know about a movie before you even walk into the cinema. A title like Scream, short and pithy as it is, tells you the exact reaction the filmmakers hope to get out of you. A title like Sharknado tells you that you’re in for something gloriously silly and over the top. So how do you think I reacted when I saw that there was a film with the title The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot? That’s right; I was elated because that is one of the most glorious titles that I have ever read in my life. It’s a title that drips with promise and potential, the suggestion of some glorious insanity that will be the kind of film that you watch drunk with friends. It sounded so fun and so camp… and then the film started and delivered a very different film that I’m still unsure about.
Calvin Barr (Sam Elliot) is just trying his hardest to live a normal life in a small town, getting haircuts from his brother Ed (Larry Miller) and taking care of his dog. He’s trying to distance himself from the world that can’t know that, back in the 1930s, Calvin shot Adolf Hitler in a mission that remains classified to this day. Now, some decades later, he has been called on by his government to go and kill Bigfoot because Bigfoot is the source of a virus that could destroy the world and Calvin is one of the few people immune to that virus so he must go and kill Bigfoot otherwise the government is going to have to nuke Canada to ensure the beast is dead.
Now, just describing the plot like that certainly makes it sound like a big silly pulpy movie right? The kind of film with cheesy one-liners and explosions and all kinds of weirdness. Well, they didn’t make that film. They made a film that has this wildly fantastical concept that lends itself to being bombastic and over the top and decided to pump the breaks and take it slow which could work. I could absolutely see a version of this film that takes the insane idea of the title and uses it to explore dark ideas like what it means to kill bad people or the effects murder has on someone, even when the person deserved it (I think we can all agree, Hitler murder is always OK). The problem is this film doesn’t do it well enough. The middle of the film is probably where most of the interesting stuff happens, where we see Calvin exploring just what he did and how he doesn’t want to have to do it again, even to a creature like The Bigfoot who has killed already and will kill again. It’s an interesting way to explore the idea of how someone copes with having this kind of work, but it never does it well.
Part of the problem is that the film is jumping about through time like it’s nobody’s business. We flip back and forth between different timelines, to the point where I was legitimately lost for several scenes. There’s an entire subplot about a relationship that Calvin has and for the life of me, I do not know if that happened before or after he killed Hitler. It’s misshapen in how it tries to tell this story like it wants to be as classy and fancy as it can… while also having a title that mentioned murdering the head Nazi and a Sasquatch, two things that do not lend themselves to jumping around the timeline like a rabbit on cocaine. The film works best when we’re with Sam Elliot, maybe if they’d just shown the film in chronological order that would’ve helped but as it is, you really need to be on the ball to keep up with the story which you shouldn’t need to do for a film that, one more time, is about a man killing Hitler and also Bigfoot.
Some shockingly abrupt tonal shifts just do not work, particularly at the end when it deals with Bigfoot. It goes from slow and contemplative to the exact movie you thought you would get when you read the title to tragic to… I can’t even really describe the last twist reveal as anything other than “Dumb, in a bad way”. Characters pop up who belong in the pulp movie we expect, some are trying to do what Sam Elliot’s doing, others are just there because they look close enough to Hitler with a moustache on. It’s almost a chore to try and keep up with the tones they’re trying to do. Sometimes wild tonal shifts can work, abrupt twists can still have the desired effect. We saw this earlier in the year when The Perfection pulled off more twists than a twizzler, but this film just never retains the audience well enough that it can hang onto them when they make that sudden shift, people just get thrown to the wayside in the attempt.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not the movie that the title promised. It’s slow and contemplative until it decides to do something completely different. It’s not for everyone and it’s sadly not as memorable as it probably should be, but the Sam Elliott performance is one of his best and there are enough good scenes in this one that it’s watchable, but not lovable.