Director: Mischa Webley
Screenplay: Mischa S. Webley
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Tory Kittles, Billy Zane, Dennis Adkins, Victoria Blake, Ted Rooney
Running Time: 88 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Lt Samuel Drake (Chadwick Boseman) is a troubled vet of the Iraq war, plagued by the memories of some of the nasty stuff he did for his country, including setting a suspected insurgent on fire. Recently discharged, he’s trying to pull his life back together, while he works as a cab driver and lives in a rundown motel. The ‘highlight’ of his life seems to be attending counselling sessions with other vets, sessions led by Marshall (Billy Zane), who is trying to help the ex-soldiers come to terms with what they all experienced while on active duty.
Drake’s fairly hum-drum existence is disrupted when two military suits, James and Peter (Ted Rooney and Peter Greene respectively) come looking for him and force him into one more mission, namely to track down and kill one Sgt. Devon Carter (Tory Kittles). It turns out that Carter has gone AWOL from active duty and seems to be gunning (literally) for various military executives and soldiers who have displeased him.
With no real choice, Drake heads off into the wilderness of Oregon looking for his quarry, only to find a man who knows more about his own past than he’s comfortable with. Carter is currently living a survivalist existence in a fire-watch cabin on a mountain peak, and quickly captures his would-be assassin. It soon becomes apparent that Carter wants to turn Drake into a fellow revolutionary, railing against a system that sees human life only as collateral damage and nothing more.
Following a fair bit of philosophising where both parties build up some kind of understanding of each other, Drake turns the tables on his captor, but spares Carter’s life, although only after insisting that Carter disappear, lay low, and never kill again. Sadly, that act of mercy turns out to have unintended consequences for both men…
Kill Zone (formerly Kill Hole) is a difficult film to classify. Part lyrical meditation on the nature of war, part kitchen sink drama, part brothers in arms whimsy, it’s a hard sell. There are shades of Taxi Driver here and Apocalypse Now, but Kill Zone never really achieves those lofty heights due to a script that doesn’t really seem to know how it wants to play itself out. The film’s laconic voice-over by Carter tries to bring depth to that character’s actions and reasoning, but Carter only really comes across as a man who’s lost the plot, and big time.
It would have helped if Drake had been more sympathetic, but his actions in Iraq show him to be lacking in humanity, as Carter reminds him, when he reveals that he bore witness to Drake’s pyromaniac insanity, when he was working as a sniper in the region.
Although nicely played out by a game cast of actors, and some real ex-military types, Kill Zone drags its heels and stumbles to a crawl too frequently – to muse on the rights and wrongs of it all – to be dramatically dynamic. On the plus side it’s nicely shot, with some terrific scenery to chew on, and it’s good to see two black leads for a change. The music sometimes really works for the visuals and the drama within certain scenes, but other times it seems to be badly chosen. Likewise the editing seems a little uneven at times, with some strange fades and some jarring fast cuts.
I really wanted to like Kill Zone, but in the end found my attention wandering and my sympathies for the main characters waning rapidly. A bit like war itself, the film seems, ultimately, to be all rather pointless too. I’m sure actual soldiers will get a lot more out of this film than I ever could, but for me it was quite the disappointment.
Kill Zone has been released on DVD and is being distributed by 101 Films. The only special feature on the disc is the film’s trailer, which unsurprisingly makes the film out to be a lot more action-packed than it actually is.