Mediocrity comes in many forms. One of its favorite forms of late is romantic comedies starring either Ashton Kutcher or Katherine Heigl. In the case of the 2010 film Killers, it pairs the two of them together as a couple who meet and fall in love in Nice, France, have a whirlwind romance, and settle down in suburbia. The only problem is, Spencer (Kutcher) used to be a contract killer for an unspecified government agency. Already questioning his role, he quits when he meets Jen (Heigl), but he has moderate trouble adapting to the suburban lifestyle. He comes across as being needy to his in-laws. Then further trouble results when Spencer’s past comes back to haunt him and Jen, as he becomes the target of assassins himself, forcing him to come clean with Jen while the two of them deal with the revelation that many of their neighbors are planted sleeper agents out to kill them.
As if homeowners associations weren’t already enough to drive one to homicide.
The film is directed by Robert Luketic, who previously worked with Heigl in The Ugly Truth. Luketic’s filmography mostly consists of other romantic comedies, plus the film 21, so perhaps this is the reason why the action sequences in the film are rather lackluster. There are a fair number of chase scenes and fight scenes, but it is difficult to get invested in them. They aren’t exciting, they are seldom suspenseful, and often times the resolutions don’t even make a great deal of sense (a scene in which Kutcher’s character hides in the top of a closet to get the drop on an assassin is notable for the number of questions it ought to raise regarding its plausibility).
Of course, the romantic comedy angle of it isn’t all that strong either. There isn’t a lot of chemistry between Kutcher and Heigl, and the movie zips through the romance so fast that it’s essentially a very bland love-at-first-sight scenario. It’s only there to set things up so that the writers can have the characters be married when the assassins come calling, and this is about as much consideration as seems to have been given to it. Jen is initially socially awkward in the introductory scene, Spencer is a bit swaggering, and that’s about all there is. These characterizations are dropped entirely past the introductory sequence, almost as if they were spliced in from another script.
The humor in the film, such as it is, mostly consists of old, tired cliches about two-dimensional characters. Spencer has a work friend who’s a sex fiend. Jen has to deal with a bothersome neighbor arguing about the property line. Catherine O’Hara and Tom Selleck have supporting roles as Jen’s parents, but even the power of Selleck’s mustache (acknowledged in film) can’t save this movie. O’Hara in particular is completely wasted, as her character’s personality consists of “drinks a lot” and nothing more. Selleck’s character is depicted as being overprotective of his daughter, and disdainful of his son-in-law, and maybe something entertaining could have come from this, but like everything else it’s simply too shallow to be engaging. Looking at the resumes of the writers of the film doesn’t reveal any past work on Everybody Loves Raymond, but perhaps they used to go by different pen names. (Incidentally, we never see nor hear mention of Spencer’s parents. Perhaps if the movie had been a massive success we would have seen Dustin Hoffman debase his career further by joining Killers-in-Law, followed by Little Killers).
What truly sinks this film is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be — or doesn’t know how to be it. The idea of a romantic comedy about assassins isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t gel here; the romantic comedy and the action always feel like disparate elements, and neither part is handled particularly well. Killers isn’t painful to watch by any means, and it’ll keep a viewer occupied, but it doesn’t do much to actively engage their interest. Ultimately all it kills is time.