Killers (2010) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual material and language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O'Hara, Katheryn Winnick, Kevin Sussman, Lisa Ann Walter, Casey Wilson, Rob Riggle, Martin Mull, Alex Borstein
Cameo: Usher Raymond
Director: Robert Luketic
Screenplay: Bob DeRosa, Ted Griffin
Co-producer Ashton Kutcher (What Happens in Vegas, Open Season) plays Spencer, a secret agent assassin who meets and falls in love with a pollyanna named Jen (Heigl, 27 Dresses) while both are vacationing separately in the south of France. Spencer decides then and there to hang up the sniper rifle for good and live a normal life as Jen's husband, but after three years of marital bliss, Spencer's past comes back to haunt him in the form of assassins all round who are out to collect a sizable bounty for killing the former killer. If Spencer doesn't lose his life, he just might lose his wife, as Jen had no clue as to Spencer's secrets, wondering just what kind of man she actually married.
Director Robert Luketic (21, Monster-in-Law) films his second Katherine Heigl film in a row, coming after the even more dismal The Ugly Truth. Killers isn't as excessively crude, but does suffer by not being genuinely witty in its banter. Luketic does keep the energy level high enough to save the film from action-comedy lulls, but the lack of an interesting plot and a screenplay that lacks the snarky wit required of a character-driven comedy results in a leaden, forgettable entry in the romantic action genre. Further compounding the film's forgettable nature is the fact that it bears some resemblance to Mr. and Mrs. Smith (and perhaps Grosse Pointe Blank to an extent) in its approach to both the comedy as well as the action, and matches it in neither.
At the time of the film's theatrical release, critics were not invited to screen the film in advance, an indicator which can be interpreted that the studios don't want what they feel to be sure negative press to kill the film's chances at the early box office. Having seen the released film, this seems slightly unwarranted. Not that the film would be considered good by most critics, but because it isn't as awful as many mega-bombs that bypass advance screenings.
Somewhere in the film's development stage, it should have been apparent that a high-concept comedy that rides a hook, that friends and neighbors could all be conspiring to kill Spencer at any moment for millions of dollars, that itself isn't funny would have a difficult time generating amusement without clever writing to bolster it. Luketic's response to the lack of laughter in the theater is to replace the silence with as much gunfire, windows breaking, and cars crashing as possible. When not in action mode, the film tries to placate audiences with gratuitous beefcake, sophomoric marriage comedy clichés, and typical sitcom staples like a disapproving, controlling father and a comical alcoholic mother.
Killers has a likeable comedic cast but is consummately vapid, generating few laughs and little excitement. Spencer's running tally of his kills is claimed to be 15. The running tally for what this film has killed will be 1.5 -- as in, hours of your life.
©2010 Vince Leo