Killers is a movie that exists in a parallel universe. It’s profoundly unfunny, and yet the filmmakers seem to labor over its sense of humor, which suggests a belief that someone somewhere would actually be laughing at it. This is not merely misguided; it’s otherworldly, as if the writer, director, and producers have been channeling a plane of existence where audiences don’t require genuinely funny material to be entertained. It doesn’t have much to do with its plot or its action, which are boring and derivative but at least understandably so. No, it has to do with the characters and the dialogue, both so unbelievably strange that it’s difficult to imagine who they were supposed to appeal to. Listening to these people talk is like overhearing a conversation from an altogether different movie. I swear, it’s as if they’re talking in code.
It started with Katherine Heigl, whose character, Jennifer, is neurotic, cautious, easily exasperated, and unendurably chatty. I disliked her as early as her first scene, and that’s bad because there’s nothing inherently unlikeable about her. I had hope that it would end with Jennifer, but alas, it was only the beginning; as the film progressed, I found myself disliking all the people around her, mostly neighbors who have little else to do than be annoying suburban stereotypes. And then there are her parents, given little screen time and developed solely on their quirks. Her father (Tom Selleck) does everything he can to make those around him uncomfortable, as if, in order to be in his presence, one must provide an adequate explanation for why they were born. Her mother (Catherine O’Hara), giddy and overbearing, would benefit from an extended stay at the Betty Ford Clinic.
The plot: While vacationing in Nice with her parents, the recently single Jennifer meets Spencer Aimes (Ashton Kutcher), who’s handsome, charming, and romantic. He also happens to be a CIA agent, which means he’s obligated to drive excessively fast in sleek sports cars. He, of course, neglects to tell her about his profession, and he keeps his secret even after he falls in love with her, apparently because she’s the only real person he’s ever known. Because he loves her, he makes it clear to his boss (Martin Mull) that he’s out of the killing business for good. The boss makes it equally clear that men like men like Spencer can’t just walk away; they’re killers for life, plain and simple.
Flash forward three years. Spencer and Jennifer are now a suburban married couple, the former living a completely different life as a construction contractor, the latter a computer tech. The routine of their ordinary lives drastically changes when their friends, neighbors, and coworkers – all undercover assassins, mind you – come out of the woodwork to try killing Spencer, someone having put a $20 million price on his head. Unable to keep the secret of his past any longer, he and Jennifer go on the run. We now must endure a balancing act between bland, routine action sequences and long, moronic stretches of domestic squabbling, made worse by Jennifer’s ignorance in all things spy related. The inevitable showdown sequence ends with a speech that’s astoundingly out of place, both in terms of comedic tone and dialogue.
For a moment, let’s forget about the characters and their lines. Let’s examine a glaring mistake in the structure of the showdown sequence. It takes place in Spencer and Jennifer’s house, and it involves a number of people running around with very heavy and very loud weapons, which are freely used. All this is happening at the same time as the annual neighborhood block party, held directly on the street. Did the assassins conveniently forget that, by shooting up a house, they’re likely to attract the attention of the neighbors, who in turn would likely call the police and have them send someone, forever ruining their chance at $20 million? Maybe it’s the other way around, the neighbors miraculously unable to hear the deafening gunshots and screams emanating from Spencer’s house.
Killers wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release date. I now understand why. There’s something extraterrestrial about it, mostly in the way it so desperately tries to blend spy action and domestic comedy, neither genre having any business being together in the same movie. Katherine Heigl, who seems nice enough and who I generally like as an actress, is here so awkward that she seems not like a character but rather like a lost child trying to navigate her way back to her mommy’s hand. Ashton Kutcher can be very funny, but here he’s just going through the motions, and never once did I believe his character could ever end up with Heigl’s. Worst of all is Catherine O’Hara. It’s not enough that she’s playing a humorless and completely unnecessary character; she also plays it badly. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.