It’s the strangest feeling to watch a movie comprising so many worthy elements but missing the glue that unifies it. Writer-director Robert Krzykowski’s feature debut “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot” has, well, for starters, a killer multi-course-junk-food name. It has newly Oscar-nominated Sam Elliott at his most Elliott-esque, playing Calvin Barr, a legendary World War II soldier (his legacy’s in the title) whom the government coaxes out of small-town retirement to stop a hidden plague by tracking its monstrous, mythic carrier (the second half of that title).
But the B-movie stuff is, believe it or not, marginalized to tell a meandering, dolorous tale of old age and regret, mostly tied to earnestly dull flashbacks charting a romance between the younger Calvin (Aidan Turner) and teacher Maxine (Caitlin Fitzgerald). To see the names John Sayles and Douglas Trumbull in the credits as producers suggests a tantalizing union of indie smarts and old-school effects pizzazz, but Krzykowski’s pacing and tone is off as he tries to meld his comic book instincts – visually atmospheric if susceptible to arch cheesiness — with the requirements of a small-scale drama.
Elliott is, as expected, unfailingly right for this role, and Krzykowski is smart enough to tap his acting chops rather than merely rely on cowboy charm, but the switch to Turner in flashbacks lessens the overall impact of the character. They seem like two different people, in much the way “The Man” plays like two different movies.
‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot’
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD