The unappetizingly titled “The Kill Hole” is a middling drama that tries to combine elements of “Rambo” with serious treatment of soldiers’ post-traumatic stress disorder and vague political commentary. No aspect asserts itself strongly enough for the whole to satisfy, and at times the pic’s humorless approach to cliches unintentionally borders on “MacGruber” territory. But writer-helmer Mischa S. Webley’s debut feature nonetheless has enough polish and marketable content to carve out a modest life in ancillary formats. Limited theatrical launch March 15 is unlikely to make much noise.
Samuel Drake (Chadwick Boseman) is an ex-Marine adjusting poorly to civilian life in Portland, Ore., after traumatic experiences fighting in Iraq. Plagued by flashbacks and nightmares, he lives in a motel and drives a cab; the invariably obnoxious clientele hardly leaven his dark view of humanity. Drake keeps to himself, his only outlet being regular attendance at a support group for vets facilitated by the caring Marshall (Billy Zane).
Soon after finding his motel room ransacked one day, he realizes he’s being stalked by intelligence operatives played with near-comic solemnity by Ted Rooney and Dennis Adkins. Apparently he’s the only man for the job they coerce him into — finding, then killing Sgt. Devon Carter (Tory Kittles), another African-American Iraq vet who’s gone loco and is holed up somewhere in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, building his arsenal in order to wreak Unabomber-like revenge on a corrupt government, military and society.
Dropped with a backpack in the middle of nowhere, Drake does find Carter inasmuch as Carter captures him. As a prisoner, Drake gets a full dose of Carter’s mania, but becomes sympathetic enough to the man’s general sense of having been wronged that when tables turn, he doesn’t kill his captor. However, the shadow organization Drake believes controls U.S. military operations (and more) isn’t finished with either man.
With Boseman (in pretentious voiceover narration) and chief villain Peter Greene doing the manly Eastwood whisper-talking thing to show they’re as serious as a heart attack, and Kittles playing “crazy” with way too much hammy gusto, “Kill Hole” is sometimes more humorous than it means to be. Its derivative genre ideas are conventional but undercooked — especially as there’s not nearly the level of macho physical action the early going sets auds up to expect — while the more novel government conspiracy-theory thread is underarticulated.
Post-traumatic stress suffered by Iraq and Afghanistan vets is such an important issue that one wishes the support-group scenes, peopled by actual veterans apart from Boseman and Zane, had dominated the narrative rather than just offering background color.
Plusses are a brisk pace, decent production values on a purported $2 million budget, and the stellar Pacific Northwest backdrops of Oregon and Washington.