Putting aside our general disdain for Katherine Heigl (or at least, my general disdain) and the intelligent world’s aversion to Ashton Kutcher, how hard is it to make an action-spy-romantic-comedy that doesn’t, at the very least, appeal to the Cinemascore masses, the indiscriminating dumbass for whom most of the Hollywood output is directed? Yes. A bad movie I expected, but at least one that was competently bad. There’s a formula for these movies, and in order to satisfy even the three-brain celled organisms who slather themselves in popcorn butter before breeding (it’s the chemical cholesterolic pheromones, you know?), all you have to do is hew closely to that formula, throw in some side-boob, a decent explosion, and a few lame zingers and most moviegoers will walk out content enough not to ask for their money back.
But Killers? The suburban multiplexes may as well keep their cash registers open. YouTube commenters will be asking for their money back in all caps. It’s an honest to god garbage humping embarrassment. And not in a, “Hey! But at least it killed two hours” sort of way, but in a “those two hours will kill you” sort of way.
Anyone who has seen True Lies or Mr. and Mrs. Smith has a certain expectation, and that expectation is more than the occasional gunfight. Killers isn’t a spy comedy with a dash of romance, it’s a flat, generic, painful, chemistry-free romantic comedy with a dash of action-spy. There are two mediocre explosions. The first real action scene doesn’t even arrive until nearly the hour mark, and the occasional burst of gunfire that creeps up during the rest of the film is cancelled out by the desultory white noise. Even the most inept director knows how to kill the awkward silence with a jangly, obnoxious score or some background Snow Patrol. Instead, Robert Luketic allows the lack of chemistry between Heigl and Kutcher to swallow the film’s tone. The apathy that these two actors feel for one another is palpable and the entire film falls into the sinkhole of their indifference.
You get the impression, from the trailers, that Killers is a spy-comedy framed by the courtship of Spencer (Kutcher) and Jen (Heigl) in Nice, France. Not so much. The first full act barely even explores spy territory — it’s gaggy meet-cute followed by the adorably disastrous first date followed by the musical montage that takes us back to the United States, where Spencer is asking Jen’s father, Mr. Kornfeldt (Tom Selleck) for his blessing over some friendly skeet-shooting. It’s not until three years later, after Spencer has long-since quit the spy business and they’ve taken up residence in a suburban alcove, that his old life is resurrected. His former boss (Martin Mull) calls him to let him know he’s needed, which triggers Spencer’s paranoia. We never really understand why he’s paranoid, however, because there’s never really an explanation for why anyone wants to kill him at all. All the same, Spencer’s co-workers and suburban neighbors — who had apparently been planted in his life three years ago — begin crawling out of the woodwork with an intent to collect on a $20 million bounty that a very predictable person has put on his head. That’s, of course, when Jen finds out about his former life. Her reaction: A blood-curdling scream followed by nonchalant acceptance.
There are no transitions in Killers; nobody processes new information. They simply accept it and move on as though nothing has happened. There are several big moments in the movie, but they are treated with indifference. “Did you just kill that guy? What? You used to be a spy? Hmmm. Hey, you think we can stop by the drugstore? I think I might be pregnant.” “Oh, really? Pregnant? Well, of course, honey. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to pick up a pregnancy test and some jerky than while half the neighborhood is trying to kill me. Oh, and don’t forget, there’s a block party tonight.”
Robert Luketic (The Ugly Truth, Monster-in-Law) is a bad enough director of romantic comedies; he oughtn’t be allowed anywhere near a spy movie. He knows how to handle an action sequence about as well as he knows how to handle a vagina. Just poke it and jostle it around, right? Maybe it’ll wink! Shake it really hard and it’ll spit! I hear if you yell at one really loudly, it’ll do a handstand!
You can cover up a lot of mistakes in this kind of film with some occasionally witty banter (or even an attempt at witty banter; most people don’t know the goddamn difference) and some enthusiasm. Smile and the whole world smiles with you, right? Even if you’re a big dumb grinning idiot that doesn’t know any better. Luketic can’t even get that right: Killers is a listless, tone deaf, patch-work of half-assed ideas and clichés. And not even the clichés are properly executed. Katherine Heigl is godawful in this movie — rolling her eyes, putting her hands on her hips, feigning disbelief — but it’s saying something that, save for a couple of scenes with Catherine O’Hara, Heigl is the best part of the movie. Hell, she doesn’t even get an opportunity to murder innocent rainbows; they were dead long before she had arrived.