Killers is what I like to call a ‘perspective’ film. Sometimes in this profession, it’s easy to get into the habit of nitpicking truly great films (such as Toy Story 3 and Inception) and arguing the ways in which they aren’t masterpieces, instead of celebrating their achievements. Then along comes a film like the mind-numbing Killers – so banal, so unambitious, so devoid of charm. Suddenly, the lack of character development in Inception doesn’t seem like such a crime. The already-pretty-funny Get Him To The Greek now is now hilarious. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is …. no, that’s still terrible. See? Perspective.
Robert Luketic’s latest flick is a palette cleanser – a flavourless sorbet if you will – guaranteed to scrape the flavor of any recent enjoyable film from your sensory memory. It’s hardly the unbridled sin against nature that was The Ugly Truth (a minstrelsy display of male/female relationships that may have united couples in the way only tragedy’s can) but it’s pretty terrible in its own inoffensive way. The film’s success hinges on two seemingly impossible factors – Katherine Heigl’s ability to seem charming, and Ashton Kutcher’s ability to act like an adult (or at the very least, a non-child).
She’s Jennifer Kornfeldt. He’s Spencer Aimes. She’s a newly-single, neurotic Type A still attached to the hip of Mommy and Daddy (Catherine O’Hara and Tom Selleck). He’s a contract killer with a conscience, swept up by her clumsy advances and eager to settle down and start a family. He quits the game; they marry, and somehow they’ll figure out how to make it in this crazy world. Curtains. Applause, applause, applause…oh wait there’s more. She doesn’t know he used to be an assassin, and after three years of marital bliss, a fleet of hired-guns try to wipe out the wedded couple. Why? Eh, who cares?
Now, ignoring the fact that Killers is essentially the same film as Knight and Day (sans humour and charm), the film’s central concept is ripe for the mining. The problem is not that it chucks a couple of pretty faces into an action farce (hey, when the formula works, I welcome it). It’s the fact that Luketic and screenwriters Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin do nothing with it. “What if you’re friends and neighbours turned out to be assassins ready to take you out?” This thing practically writes itself! Instead, they’re content with featuring Heigl and Kutcher bickering incessantly. The nonthreatening assassins wander off-screen as quickly as they wandered on.
It’s hard to judge what Luketic struggles more with: the comedy or the action. The few moments of genuine humour can only be attributed to class acts like Selleck and O’Hara (who are unfortunately saddled with characters for whom the phrase ‘one-note’ would be a tremendous compliment). As for the action scenes, he decides to employ Paul Greengrass-style shakycam. However, Greengrass can still compose sequences with his vérité stylings. Luketic and DOP Russell Carpenter (who won an Oscar for Titanic and now seems doomed to work only on Luketic’s projects) seem to have handed over the task of cinematography to a nearby paint-shaker.
Kutcher and Heigl have – in the past ¬ been both appealing and funny. Oh, you’d have to go all the way back to That 70s Show for Kutcher, but he knew how to pull off ‘sweet-natured buffoon’ without coming off as obnoxious. For Heigl, you need only look to 2007’s Knocked Up, a film she bafflingly renounced, despite it featuring the only recorded footage of her as a likable human being. I hold the hope that they will one day rediscover their charm, and I will be the first to celebrate. Until then, we have Killers, a film whose lone highlight is a cameo from Usher. Sure, why the hell not?