Premise: A legendary American war veteran is recruited to hunt a mythical creature.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. I haven’t seen the trailer but the title, premise, and poster all feel like the movie is supposed to be a cheesy, ultra-violent genre movie. What the movie actually is is far from that. Instead, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is a melancholic study of a man who has closed himself off from the world as he deals with what he did in the war.
Sam Elliott’s performance solidifies the man as a national treasure, as far as I’m concerned. He plays Calvin with this burden on his back as well as an unwanted ability to kill and injure. He’s a legend in the government circles with the clearance level to know about him. But he is the humblest of heroes in that he rejects any notion that why he did was heroic. The movie is at its best when Sam Elliott is given the opportunity to shine as he allows Calvin to correct people who have the wrong idea of who he is and what he’s done.
In addition to seeing Calvin deal with reconciling his personal identity with that of his legend, there’s also the story of lost love. Through flashbacks, we see the relationship of Calvin and Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald) unfold as Calvin (played in the flashbacks by Aidan Turner) prepares to go to war. Turner and FitzGerald have strong on-screen chemistry that gives the relationship between the two characters a gentle sweetness with which I was really taken by.
However, as the movie juggled the flashbacks with the present story of Calvin, Bigfoot, and his sadness, it lost a little bit of steam. There is a lot of time spent on each narrative front (Hitler, Maxine, Bigfoot), but the movie doesn’t find quite the right balance between them. The Bigfoot storyline doesn’t come into play until over halfway through the movie, which is more than acceptable. But Calvin’s reluctance to take the job and ultimate decision regarding occur without much time for the viewer to sit with his thought process.
The movie does deliver on some genre fun amidst the heavy dramatic tone of the movie. Some of the action in the last 30 minutes feels slightly out of place in the grander scope of the film and its tone. However, it’s Elliott’s performance in those moments that really sells the more absurdity of what we’re seeing. Even with a tonal shift or two within the movie, Elliott’s performance is still grounded as a man with wartime gifts that his humanity struggles against.
If you head into The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot expecting a fun, off the wall, genre b-movie, you are likely going to be very disappointed. But if you let the movie guide you through the inner workings of a man troubled by his past and uncertain of how he can live with his actions in the future, you may find something here.