Killing Kennedy isn’t the best history drama as even at only 90-minutes does tend to drag but thanks to two strong performances from Rob Lowe (who deserved an Emmy nomination) and Will Rothaar, with special acknowledgement to Michelle Trachtenberg, this is a movie that is worth one viewing especially if you’re interested in getting the perspective of Oswald and his motivations.
Genre(s): Drama, History
Fox | NR – 87 min. / 91 min. – $29.99 | February 11, 2014
Directed by: Nelson McCormick
Writer(s): Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (book); Kelly Masterson (written by)
Cast: Rob Lowe, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jack Noseworthy
Features: Featurettes, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 37.4 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
Killing Kennedy is based on the novel by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, the second in the series that started with “Killing Lincoln” which itself got adapted and I’m sure “Killing Jesus” isn’t too far away and will be done in time for Easter 2015. As far as Kennedy goes, it’s not a bad historical drama, well acted for the most part but not overly impressive either and doesn’t really bring anything new to the conversation other than rage an Internet debate about Oliver Stone’s JFK which, in the views of this writer, has far too many problems to ignore itself.
In any case, the movie begins with Lee Harvey Oswald (WILL ROTHAAR) leaving home and going to work at the book depository, grabbing his rifle and takes aim at the motorcade below before we do the dreadful and overused hours/days/years earlier routine where we see how Oswald came to assassinate the President of the United States.
We get a glimpse of Oswald’s past, which includes defecting to Soviet Union after his disgust with American policies toward Cuba, where upon he meets the beautiful Marina (MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG) and soon enough they are spending time together and fall in love. However, due to the working conditions, and the condition of the Soviets in general, Oswald has grown disillusioned with the country and asks to be granted back his U.S. citizenship which he receives, though the person at the U.S. embassy never sent in the paperwork knowing Oswald would be back. So Lee returns to the States with Marina in tow and soon enough the two are expecting parents.
Meanwhile, on the flipside, a young and inexperienced John F. Kennedy (ROB LOWE) has just won the election over Nixon and in the early days of his first term is put to the test between the Bay of Pigs fiasco/disaster to the Cuban Missile Crisis which shows Kennedy’s conviction and strength. Beyond his political life, we also meet the lovely Jacqueline (GINNIFER GOODWIN) who stands by her man no matter what and the pair sticks together through thick and thin such as when their baby boy dies two days after his birth.
Screenwriter Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Snowpiercer) does a good job converging these two opposites to one deadly day (for both men) and shows the mental process in particular for how a sociopath like Oswald collected his thoughts which would lead to a presidential assassination not to mention the murder of a cop during his escape. Although the Kennedy storyline takes up half the movie (approximately), the more interesting aspect stays with Oswald and attempts to delve into his state of mind and delusions of self grandeur believing his actions would have him heralded as a hero. Will Rothhaar’s portrayal as Oswald is – much like Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth in Killing Lincoln – impressive taking a man known only as a monster and giving him depth and attempts to provide some kind of reason for his madness. Michelle Trachtenberg probably gets sidelined behind Lowe and Rothaar but as Mariana she provides the personal touch in Oswald’s life and thanks to her Russian roots, gives the role some authenticity speaking, from my ears anyway, fluent Russian.
The Kennedy portion of the movie has its moments, however, mainly an amazing performance from Rob Lowe who should have at least been nominated for an Emmy and perhaps a Golden Globe. So many actors have portrayed JFK throughout the years, mostly successfully, but Lowe is transformed into the part. I also have to give some kudos to Jack Noseworthy for his portrayal as JFK’s brother, and his attorney general; it gets overshadowed by Lowe and is a limited role in terms of screen-time, but a noteworthy performance nonetheless. On the downside, Ginnfier Goodwin, as beautiful and talented of an actress as she is, doesn’t quite possess the same glamour and poise as Jacqueline and while the performance itself isn’t bad per se, she’s unfortunately not in the same league as Lowe.
Directed by Nelson McCormick, Killing Kennedy might not be the most engaging drama and is a slight downgrade over Killing Lincoln, but thanks to strong performances from Rob Lowe and Will Rothaar, with honorable mention for Michelle Trachtenberg, this is a film that’s worth watching as you do get a few bits of information not known before and at least is a perspective of the lone gunman angle. Whether you buy it or not, is up to you, but taken at face value, it’s not a bad movie and is slightly above average TV affair.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.0/5
Camelot’s End: The Making of Killing Kennedy (19:34; HD) – This featurette takes viewers behind the scenes at how the movie was made, casting the parts and gets interviews with the main cast members and crew (including Executive Producer Ridley Scott).
Killing Kennedy: An Interview with Bill O’Reilly (6:06; HD) – The author and TV host talks about his book being made into a movie.
The Kennedy Mystique (6:38; HD) looks at JFK and what he made unique to politics.
Virginia is For Lovers (0:16; HD) is a tourism commercial… I think. It’s so short, I’m not really sure.
Previews – Romeo & Juliet, The Book Thief
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Killing Kennedy arrives on Blu-ray distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and it more or less looks like a TV movie airing on the HD channel. The detail levels are pretty good and the colors appear to be nicely balanced and fairly bright. It’s not the best looking video presentation but more than satisfactory for home viewing.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
On a similar front, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track gets the job done well enough featuring crisp and clear dialogue through the center channel while things like the score and some ambient noises (and gunfire for that matter) makes use of the front and rear channels. This lossless track won’t blow your mind nor will it reverberate through your home theater, yet it’s good enough.
OVERALL – 2.75/5
Overall, Killing Kennedy isn’t the best history drama as even at only 90-minutes does tend to drag but thanks to two strong performances from Rob Lowe (who deserved an Emmy nomination) and Will Rothaar, with special acknowledgement to Michelle Trachtenberg, this is a movie that is worth one viewing especially if you’re interested in getting the perspective of Oswald and his motivations. The Blu-ray offers decent audio/video transfers while the bonus materials are limited.