Movie Review: Killers
By Matthew Huntley
June 7, 2010
Killers is one of those movies that was probably pitched by a hotshot producer saying, “It’s part [name of movie], part [name of movie] and part [name of movie].” In other words, it’s a derivative hodgepodge that tries to capitalize on other movies’ success and popularity. The movie is not offensively bad, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and it often feels lazy and rushed. There’s really no reason to see it.
The plot, in a nutshell, is about a covert assassin named Spencer (Ashton Kutcher) who wants out of the professional killing business. He comes to this realization when he meets Jen (Katherine Heigl), a self-conscious neurotic who’s recently been dumped by her boyfriend. Jen is vacationing with her parents (Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara) in Nice, France, and she’s afraid to tell Spencer because of what he might think. She soon comes clean and so does he, sort of. He begins to tell her the truth about his day job but she falls asleep. Now don’t you think Spencer would at least try and tell her again when she wakes up? If he thought he was telling her anyway, why keep it from her?
Anyway, three years go by and Spencer and Jen have married and moved to a quaint suburban neighborhood, which is all Spencer wanted after years of receiving kill assignments from his former boss, Holbrook (Martin Mull). Spencer quit his old life cold turkey, but Holbrook warns him his duties aren’t over. When Spencer refuses to go back, he learns a $20 million bounty is out on him and his would-be friends, neighbors and co-workers are all trying to kill him. Jen inexplicably walks in during a face-off and, after providing the inevitable scream, says things like “I don’t even know you!” and “Start explaining, mister!” Eventually, she joins Spencer on his mission to find out who sent the killers.
As you might have guessed, there’s nothing really new or exciting here. The movie is a substandard amalgamation of True Lies, Gross Pointe Blank, Meet the Parents, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Do you think any of these movies were referenced during that initial pitch meeting? Unlike any of them, though, Killers lacks edge and a juicy sense of humor. Kutcher and Heigl have so-so chemistry together, but they never really gel and I never bought them as a couple. Kutcher seems preoccupied and is not his usual playful self, while Heigl once again plays the same character she’s always played throughout her film career - the compulsive neurotic who’s more obnoxious than cute.
Another problem is the action scenes, which are too run-of-the-mill and tame for us to ever think Spencer and Jen are in any real danger. The movie treats their situation neither as over-the-top nor as semi-realistic. It falls somewhere in the middle and it doesn’t really know what to do with itself. It’s sort of dull. Had the movie possessed more of an attitude, it might have kicked into higher gear, but it’s content with being routine and uninspired instead of ambitious and bold.
One thing I keep coming back to is Jen’s reaction to her husband’s secret. It doesn’t seem real, even in the movie’s world. It’s like she knew about his alter ego before but is now playing dumb. I also would have appreciated a scene where Jen actually steps outside the situation and says, “Wow, my husband is an assassin,” and actually thinks about it. It’s not everyday you hear such news, but she accepts it too soon, despite her world being turned upside down.
One of the movie’s bright spots is Catherine O’Hara’s performance. She’s hilarious (as usual) as Jen’s alcoholic mother and the only one who gives the movie some quirky energy. She makes it come alive beyond just a mere imitation of other films. It’s a shame the entire screenplay couldn’t be about her. Then things really might have cooked.
But Killers would rather simmer than cook. It rushes toward a convenient ending where everything gets explained in one fell swoop and all the conflicts get resolved in a matter of seconds. It half-a*ses it just so it can end. By that point, though, it was probably better for it to end than get worse.