An official selection of Fantasia 2018 (Montreal), where it had its World Premiere.
Before one second of writer and director’s Robert D. Krzykowski, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot plays, you know it has the greatest title ever. When you then add Sam Elliott as the star, then you’ve got a film that can only be good.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is more than its title suggests, and it suggests much. Most would expect it to be an Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer type flick, a film filled with the same stupidity as its title. However, while Krzykowski’s story does have its over-the-top moments, it’s mostly about an old man panged by regret and loneliness.
Elliott plays Calvin Barr, a retired soldier tottering off into antiquity and legend. The film opens to Calvin sitting at a bar. The camera does a close-up of his drink and transitions to his younger self dressed in Nazi garb. That sort of transition, from the present to past using reflective props, such as drinks and mirrors, is a motif throughout Krzykowski’s film. The movie oscillates between these present scenes and flashbacks, where Aidan Turner plays the younger Calvin.
While one would expect most of the flashback scenes to encompass the killing of Hitler, they do quite the opposite. They demonstrate the life Calvin had before he killed Hitler. We see Calvin with a star-crossed lover, Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald), an outgoing teacher who appears to be the opposite of the stuttering and shy young man. We’re also introduced to his younger brother, Ed, who in the present day scenes is played by Larry Miller. In these flashbacks Calvin, as previously mentioned, is shy and fearful. This is in great contrast to his current self, who is remorseful and, to a point, fearful. He’s fearful of confronting two truths: that he’s made mistakes and the contents of the wooden box underneath his bed. We never see what’s in this wooden box, but guesses abound and your hunch will change throughout the film.
However, as sincere as these scenes are, there’s still the other two subjects present in the title of the film: Hitler and Bigfoot. The Hitler portion, surprisingly for me, wasn’t outlandish. In fact, it was straightforward. A soldier is tasked to go under cover as a Nazi soldier and assassinate the “fuhrer.” This subplot pretty much comes and goes with little fanfare. Instead, we’re too interested in the older Calvin. Elliot, per usual, fills the screen with his quiet bravado. When he’s not there, we’re counting down the moments for his return. Indeed, the Bigfoot segment is far more fulfilling. Mainly, because it’s the current-day Calvin doing the hunting. Two federal agents, American (Ron Livingston) and Canadian (Rizwan Manji), approach the old soldier to kill a virus spreading Bigfoot. The result is Calvin arriving in a hellscape of a forest and going through the most badass action sequences of the year.
Because of the film’s title, Krzykowski is obligated to create this scene. Nevertheless, it somehow doesn’t detract from the overall tone of the film. The story still regresses back to its quiet and sincere examination of aging. Even if Calvin is capable of killing a mythic legend, of being a legend, he’s still alone. He’s still surrounded by chances never taken, love never had. That makes The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot one of the more thoughtful films of the year.