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2010-06-03 14:33

What it's about:

While on a job in Nice, France, Spencer (Ashton Kutcher), a government assassin, falls in love with Jen (Katherine Heigl), a vacationing American girl, quickly resulting in his leaving his murderous job aside and committing to a quiet suburban life. Or so he thought as he suddenly finds himself with a contract on his head – much to the chagrin of his wife who knows nothing of his previous life.

What we thought:

Starting with the unbelievably ridiculous conceit that the only men Katherine Heigl can hope to attract are, would you know it, ugly geeks and losers and ending with a completely illogical "twist" ending, Killers never fails to utterly waste its fairly decent premise. Of course, it was a fairly decent premise in the 1990s when James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger used it as the basis for their massively enjoyable hit True Lies, but more on that later.

It's not that Killers is a woefully horrible film. It demonstrably isn't and I would be shocked if it was anywhere near the worst film released this year. It remains perfectly watchable throughout and while it may quickly put you to sleep, it's unlikely to have you throwing your popcorn at the screen before storming out of the cinema in a huff. Killers isn't terrible but it is uninspired, lazy and, regardless of the onslaught of bullets and one-line zingers, very, very boring. And for an alleged comedy, it's also pretty free of laughs.

The director of this masterpiece is one Robert Luketic, whose best received film to date is most probably Legally Blonde. That's right, Legally Blonde. Writer, Ted Griffin has a better pedigree with work on Matchstick Men and Oceans Eleven on his CV but he is teamed with Bob DeRosa, a relative unknown. On the acting front, Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara provide some much-needed titters as Jen's oddball parents but Heigl and Kutcher fail to carry the film as anything other than eye-candy.

To be fair though, it's not really their fault. Kutcher's character shows little in the way of personality so it's not like there was a fortune for him to do. Heigl, however, is even worse served by a character that appears to have been developed by twelve different writers, separated from one another by entire continents with absolutely no means of communication between them. Her character is that inconsistent.

The worst part isn't simply that the film fails spectacularly to do what it sets out to with anything even resembling panache or style, it constantly references better films that I, for one, would much rather have been watching.

True Lies, as I mentioned above, is the most obvious, um, "influence" on Killers, but the difference is that True Lies was genuinely enjoyable, stylish and captivatingly bonkers with a director who knew his way around an action scene. And, sorry, it has to be said, Ahnuld was a far more engaging screen presence than Killers' two leads combined. Seriously.

In terms of the action, much of the film reminded me of the final act of Hot Fuzz as everybody and their dog launches increasingly bombastic attacks on our heroes. Hot Fuzz redefined and refreshed the action comedy, so for such a banal example of the genre to reference it so blatantly was either an act of extreme stupidity or unforgivable ignorance. Either way, it does not reflect well on Killers.

Other references are more discreet but whether it's a soundtrack choice that brought me back to that unforgettable final scene in Wes Anderson's Rushmore or lines that feel like Shane Black rejects (the screenwriter of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fame), Killers never feels like anything more than a shoddy knock off of a multitude of far better films. Those who have never seen those films might get more enjoyment out of Killers than I did, but to them I can only recommend that rather go out and rent one or all of the films I've mentioned above.

Incidentally though, Killers also bares definite similarities to the equally dire Mr. and Mrs. Smith remake from a few years ago, but feel free to ignore that as well.

Sexy, campy and action-packed it may be, but Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl have seen better days.

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