D: Robert Luketic. DP: Russell Carpenter. W: Bob DeRosa & Ted Griffin. Starring: Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl/Tom Selleck/Catherine O’Hara/Katheryn Winnick/Rob Riggle/Kevin Sussman/Lisa Ann Walter/Casey Wilson/Alex Borstein.
Summertime isn’t just full of studio sequels and action extravaganzas, but also harbors a little genre called the romantic comedy. And as rom coms come back in town, how will they fair this season? After last summer’s Sandra Bullock success, is another actor slated to steal her crown as money-maker? Starting with Lionsgate’s Killers we shall see.
Having previously worked with Heigl in 2009’s (forgettable) The Ugly Truth, director Luketic is clearly her fan here. He not only allows Heigl’s Jen to have personality, along with a few laughs, but gives the female role actual agency in the plot. And, although the film isn’t entirely centered on Heigl, it is clear that is it more her story than her husband. Heigl’s husband Spencer, played by a (finally) dashingly grown-up Kutcher who also acted as producer on the project. Kutcher sports the same brown doe eyes as her and clearly (roll of the eyes) wants a normal relationship and life. You won’t be able to help yourself to root for the two of them though, that is the power of the pretty people.
However, the plot is where the film maintains simplicity. The actual reveal that Kutcher is a spy has little weight to it, although Heigl does her best to freak out. The rest of the spy section of the plot is too easy to figure out and solved so meekly that a great score and editing can’t lift its energy. An energy that is kept afloat by Heigl’s parents in the film, dad Selleck and mom O’Hara. Both clever actors who, although they appear more as caricatures of suburban retirees, are able to add to the film’s dynamic rather than detract.
Yet Killers is somewhat successful as its primary focus is on the marriage of two characters rather than on their romance. Instead of spending the film basking in the glow of France and new found chemistry between Heigl and Kutcher, the film speeds this along and roots the action in the survival of their cemented partnership. Unlike most romantic comedies, that tend to emphasize the act of falling in love, the film attempts to unpack the meaning of words like trust, communication, loyalty, and support. Themes and issues that are normally ignored by this genre. Additionally, these topics are easier to swallow amidst laughter and action given the spy context of the plot. Though I have to say, the casual death toll in the film sparks too little of a reaction from Heigl (or maybe that’s just me).
However, ultimately Killers does appear disjointed. Its clear attempt to balance action, comedy and romance is not altogether successful. It speeds up, slows down, and sometimes crashes into new plot lines that appear randomly. This could be attributed to the fact that the plot lines are so similar to films as recent as 2005’s Mr & Mrs. Smith and 1994’s True Lies. Nevertheless, the film is still nicely packaged by Lionsgate even if it might appear to some as re-hash.