Mark Reviews Movies

Killing Gunther


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Taran Killam

Cast: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Paul Brittain, Allison Tolman, Ryan Gaul, Aaron Yoo, Amir Talai, Cobie Smulders, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Kelamis, Steve Bacic

MPAA Rating: R (for violence, language and some sexual material)

Running Time: 1:32

Release Date: 10/20/17 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 19, 2017

It seems almost unfair to reveal the actor who plays the eponymous target of Killing Gunther, except that the actor's name and face are plastered over all of the movie's marketing materials. It's a necessary selling point, one assumes, since none of the other actors is a big draw. That's nothing against them, of course. It's simply the way things go. Everyone knows the actor who plays Gunther. As nice as it would be for people like Allison Tolman and Bobby Moynihan to be household names, they're not—at least not yet.

Until then, they'll have to slog through material like this, in which a group of bumbling assassins bumble their bumbling way to bumbling up the job of killing the elusive—and decidedly not-bumbling—Gunther. The guy who comes up with the plan is a professional assassin named Blake, who's played by Taran Killam, the "Saturday Night Live" alum who wrote the screenplay and makes his directorial debut. What can be said is that Killam is smart enough to bring performers like Tolman, Moynihan, Cobie Smulders, and others along for the ride.

Getting a big, recognizable name and face to play Gunther is a coup of casting, too. Even if this particular big guy's career is at a point where he's doing material like this and getting the quick paycheck that comes with less than 20 minutes of screen time, one can't tell whether or not he's doing it for the easy money. He seems to be having fun.

The rest of the cast seems to be having fun, too. If there's one thing you learn after watching enough comedies, though, it's that a cast having fun in front of the camera does not necessarily translate into an audience having fun. It doesn't here, but at least one can watch the movie to see evidence that everyone here is having a good time. At a certain point, it becomes far too easy to become a little envious. Where's our good time?

Gunther is a famous hitman, whose dirty work gets him headlines and mentions on the covers of every magazine imaginable—and a bunch that aren't (One dedicated to koalas notes that the infamous assassin killed over a dozen people, which raises questions about the need for such a publication and the judgment of its editorial staff). Blake is jealous for professional and mostly personal reasons. Gunther had an affair with his now-ex-girlfriend Lisa (Smulders), who was also an assassin but became frustrated with Blake's devotion to his work.

Blake gathers a team, along with a documentary crew to record everything (Killam does justify a reason for recording everything: Blake threatens to kill the crew if they don't) Said team is composed of explosives expert Donnie (Moynihan), second-generation assassin Sanaa (Hannah Simone), poisoner Yong (Aaron Yoo), the bionic-armed Izzat (Amir Talai), the team's tech expert Gabe (Paul Brittain), and sociopathic Russian twins Mia (Tolman) and Barold (Ryan Gaul). The joke is that they're all really bad at what they do.

The extended joke is that each one has a specific quirk as to how they're really bad at what they do. Izzat's mechanical arm is always malfunctioning. The Russians are distracted by the idea of sightseeing. Sanaa's father (played by Peter Kelamis) is his daughter's biggest fan and a bit too controlling when it comes to her love life. Yong can't stand the sight of blood and projects a stream of vomit whenever he spots even a drop of the red stuff. Since the first stage of the team's plan ends with someone being shot in the head, one can imagine how there's almost as much vomit as there is blood in the movie.

These are the jokes—the only jokes, really—repeated over and over until they're dead. The "they" refers to the characters, since they only exist to have their little quirks, as well as to be killed off one or two or three at a time, as Gunther defends himself against the inept team. Each joke is slightly amusing the first time it's told. Killam's screenplay doesn't expand upon the gags, and the actors don't seem particularly interested in improvising any more than they need to in order to get through a given scene.

At this point, it's pretty useless to continue dancing around the identity of Gunther. He's played by Arnold Schwarzenegger with the devilish charm and gallows humor you'd expect from a murder-loving, globe-trotting hitman. Things brighten a bit with his appearance in Killing Gunther. Unfortunately, as I intentionally have failed to mention until now, his less-than-20-minutes appearance occurs in the movie's final 20 minutes.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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