Sunday, January 23, 2011

Killers (2010)

Starring Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck
Directed by Robert Luketic
Rated PG-13; Violence.

The Story:
Jen discovers that her husband Spencer is a former CIA assassin, and now the two of them are on the run from other assassins that are trying to kill them.

My Thoughts:
The film opens with Jen (Katherine Heigl) at center stage in between her parents (Catherine O’Hara and Tom Selleck) were they explain to her how she had a bad breakup and needs to get away from it all on a vacation to Nice, France. This scene establishes three things; First, that Katherine Heigl is the focus of this movie, and everything else is superficial. Second, that Mom is an alcoholic, and this is played for laughs. Its kind of funny the first time, but with repetition it gets old fast. Third, this is one of the worst ways to start a movie. Jen’s mom explains things to her that she already knows, and worse describes Jen’s character, rather than letting us see her act out her character and grow to know her. It feels like the director or the screenwriter just checked the box for establishing characters and decided to move on. This scene is nothing more than a teaser before the opening credits and the movie would have been stronger without it, but they need pad out the movie’s 95 minute runtime somehow.

Once the trio gets to France, Jen meets the shirtless Spencer (Ashton Kutcher), who we the audience learn is a CIA assassin. This is established by having him climb a rope, knock out an extra and plant a bomb which makes an explosion that would be laughed out of a SyFy Channel original movie. None of this really helps build his character outside of his role. He tells Jen that he is a business consultant who travels all the time he just wants to have a have a normal life and settle down. They have a clich├ęd “falling in love” montage and three years later they’re married and have a house in the wealthiest suburban community in American and have the annoying characters from every 1960s sitcom as neighbors. Also Spencer’s last name is “Aimes”, and Jen’s maiden name is “Kornfeld”, as in “Aim” and “Cornfed”, just in case you wanted a sampling of the lack of subtly this movie sets for its sense of humor.

After that long, agonizingly cheesy opening, the plot finally starts when one of their neighbors turns out to be an assassin and tries to kill Spencer, shocking Jen, who after three years of marriage never bothered asking any simple questions about his past. Also it seems Spencer didn’t make any effort to formally retire from the CIA. The basic gist from here on out is that all of their neighbors are trained killers and are suddenly after them. Rather than say, traveling to exotic location like say France, were the movie started and have a elaborate thriller involving trying to figure out who would want Spencer dead, they drive around their quaint neighborhood and argue trivial marriage matters that drown out the big picture of their situation and are supposed to be funny. This is punctuated by one of their neighbors jumping out of the woodwork with an oversized weapon every now and then. Much like the “Mom is an alcoholic” gag, its funny the first time, but with overuse it is no longer shocking, surprising or suspenseful. The conclusion of the film is one big insulting punchline, especially when it sinks in how avoidable all the events that occurred could have been.

One the most unforgivable aspects of the film is Ashton Kutcher’s performance. He is bored and passionless throughout the movie. Halfway through when he reminds us that he’s a trained assassin, it really comes as a surprise because he is just that dull and unappealing. While watching this, I couldn’t help but flashback to the 1994 film “True Lies”, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. The plot is similar; a suburban husband, leading a double life as a government agent. While not a great movie, “True Lies” has fun fast paced action, comedy and most importantly characters we care about. “True Lies”, starts by showing Arnold as a James Bond style action hero with the fast guns, gadgets and post kill puns, its pure popcorn fun. We see his double life; his devotion to his job is contrasted with his love for his wife and daughter. He shows remorse at lying to his wife about were he is, remorse that he is missing out on his daughter’s budding teen years and the constant guilt of his elaborate cover stories to explain his behavior. When Ashton Kutcher acts suspicious when he thinks danger is afoot and Katherine Heigl calls him out on it, he shrugs and says “I’m fine”, when its obvious to everyone with a functioning brain that he’s not fine. When a 700 pound slab of walking beef is out-acting you, well, that just speaks for itself.

Bottom Line, it’s a juvenile comedy aimed at adults. The characters are dull and lifeless, with traits telegraphed to us rather than shown. The suburban setting and its situations are silly bordering on insulting, and even at less than two hours it feels long and droning.

Final Score:
1 out of 5. Joyless.

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