I’ll thank you to look after the dog.
A title like The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is making very specific promises and writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski doesn’t disappoint. Calvin Barr (Aidan Turner in flashback) did kill Adolf Hitler and Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott in present day) will be recruited to hunt down and eventually kill The Bigfoot. These imperatives are present and plain as day with the type of verbosity that gets you smiling before you even see how crazy this hero’s life proves to accomplish such outlandish and seemingly impossible things. And it’s precisely because of this transparency that we’re quick to assume the craziness is all Krzykowski’s film will offer. We assume genre exploits in a low stakes cartoonish affair only to find an introspective work of deep sadness instead.
This isn’t some bait and switch either since things open on the elder Barr starring into a mirror with a glass of alcohol in his hand. Billy Squier‘s “Lonely Is the Night” plays on the jukebox to give things a boost of rock adrenaline along with its apt lyrics about a fight a-brewing. Is it the one that waits outside courtesy of three young thugs looking to boost an unsuspecting old man’s car? Or is it the one triggered by déjà vu where a baby-faced American soldier wearing Nazi regalia walks into an enemy base with a secretly disassembled gun straight out of Q’s workshop? The answer is unsurprisingly both because each of these incidents forced Calvin to go against his heart and unleash the violence from within.
We don’t therefore get some larger than life hero puffing out his chest and making Tall Tales even taller. Calvin doesn’t lament his lack of notoriety—just the fact that his government asked him to compromise his innocence and ultimately destroy all chance at happiness. There was hope within his soul upon leaving thanks to the promise of Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald) being there upon his return, but all that came crashing down once his loyalty and efficacy led to more dangerous and lengthy assignments. Time it would seem was never on his side and duty merely left him with the scars of regret rather than any badges of honor. So he drinks his drink, pets his dog, and talks himself out of opening the case beneath his bed.
You can’t blame him either since the simple act of shaving or spying a darkened bottle on his brother’s (Larry Miller‘s Ed) barber counter transports him back to those days he’s yet to shake. There’s the tense night spent in a duplicitous Russian’s (Nikolai Tsankov) tent, a curse put upon him in exchange for safe travels on his mission, and the moment he came face to face with a monster. These are the memories he can stomach even though they cemented personal tragedy because the others consist of Maxine and a promise he couldn’t keep. Just like his reflexes kicked in despite arthritis with those thugs, a call to action by a joint FBI (Ron Livingston) and Canadian (Rizwan Manji) task force cajoles them out too. Heroism remains.
Why would he stop now? The whole reason he let himself do what he did during WWII was because the lives of innocents around the world were at stake. So if The Bigfoot is carrying a cataclysmic disease able to wipe out humanity as we know it, “No” isn’t an answer he can stick to regardless of whether he wished he could. Calvin must therefore push aside decades of quiet living wallowing in sorrow and rekindle the drive that got him back home from Europe. He must realize that he can’t let losing Maxine be in vain and he can’t let down Ed and his family by simply refusing to do what he knows he could. And let’s be honest, death by Bigfoot in failure is pretty cool.
Krzykowski isn’t shy about showing the kind of man Calvin is: a hardened façade hiding a big softie devoid of any ill will. Some scenes are touching (holding onto a tiny dinosaur he was given for good luck) and others over-the-top (returning a lost winning lottery ticket to the store in case its owner was looking for it). What’s interesting is that the latter never feel ham-fisted because they’re exactly what we expected to receive. That silliness is where the film lives up to its title. So it’s the heartfelt authenticity that catches our attention instead, those moments that show there’s more here than meets the eye. That’s where we begin to empathize with Calvin and see the sacrifices he’s made. He’s a casualty of war despite surviving.
So hearing him put Livingston’s FBI Agent in his place by explaining the personal cost to heroism is where The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot really cements its purpose. They’re the words of a broken man who gave everything to a mission in which he wasn’t the most important piece regardless of secrets or cover-ups. He was but a soldier with a gun following orders someone else drew up. He was a tool used to complete a task before other men arrived to cleanup the real mess. And the same could be said with this latest Bigfoot ordeal. Calvin isn’t the one who figured out what was happening. He’s simply the guy they’ve recruited to take out the garbage and suffer the emotional and psychological consequences.
As such, Sam Elliott delivers a stunning performance many people won’t see under the assumption it was just a quick B-movie paycheck. That’s unfortunately the reality of the world in which we live where genre fare is automatically disregarded. So credit Krzykowski as a first-time filmmaker for finding that balance between midnight schlock and dramatic pathos. Credit RLJ Entertainment for taking the chance to put it out in theaters no matter how few. Because let’s face it, the end result will surprise as many audience members as it alienates with its slow pacing and internalized battles. Yes there’s a throw-down beat-it-up with Bigfoot at the end, but action is otherwise limited. This is instead about the man behind the legend and the heartache that defines him.
 Sam Elliott as Calvin Barr in the action-thriller “THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT,” an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
 (L-R) Caitlin FitzGerald as Maxine and Aidan Turner as Calvin Barr in the action-thriller “THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT,” an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.
 (L-R) Sam Elliott as Calvin Barr and Larry Miller as Ed in the action-thriller “THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT,” an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.