Images courtesy Saban Films

Arnold’s back as the titular hitman in this quirky comedy

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Killing Gunther

Starring Cobie Smulders, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby Moynihan

Directed by Taran Killam

Available On Demand

Have you ever watched that little-known show The Office — or any of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries? That is the main conceit of Killing Gunther — a kinda funny film about a group of contract killers who are chasing after the elusive Gunther, the world’s greatest hitman, while a film crew documents the process.

The mockumentary jokes are fast and furious, but for all the endless rounds of slapstick and improv-ish moments involving the awkward interactions between the hitmen, it all never seems to connect.

In fact, a good chunk of the jokes felt telegraphed, which was surprising considering some of the talent in front of and behind the camera.

Writer/director Taran Killam has been a familiar face for years thanks to his work on Saturday Night Live and his roles in How I Met Your Mother and films like The Heat. He’s pretty funny and he has some funny moments in this film as the main hitman/team leader, Blake. In fact, a few other SNL alums have significant roles in this film as Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), an awkward hitman, and Gabe (Paul Brittain), a distracted tech geek, while Hannah Simone (known to many as The New Girls‘ Cece Parekh) plays the role of the sexy hitwoman, Sanaa. Another How I Met Your Mother alum, Colbie Smulders plays Blake’s former love, Lisa, a retired hitwoman who used to date Gunther. All the performances are pretty good. It just feels like something is lacking.

Throughout the film we are treated to action scenes and familiar tropes that are dismantled by awkward reality. For example, when the team pulls footage from a recent attack by Gunther, Blake orders that the image be enhanced, to which Gabe informs him that such a thing isn’t really possible. It’s kinda funny but nowhere near as funny as it could’ve been.

However, the film’s title character is portrayed by ’80s action hero/former box-office draw Arnold Schwarzenegger. He, like most of the actors, pulls off some mildly humorous moments — the best being when he sings a country song. Unfortunately, that joke, as with many of the other mockumentary jokes, tends to just be meh … almost like you know you should be laughing harder but just can’t physically do it. While it is the main draw of the film, Schwarzenegger’s appearance is also distracting in its own way.

During one of the early fight scenes, one of the hitmen corners the elusive Gunther in an office. A silhouette resembling Schwarzenegger punches, counter-punches, kicks, chokes, and swings the hitman down onto the table. In another scene, Gunther does a jump/flip off a dumpster into a waiting vehicle. Gunther is never physically seen up close and personal in these scenes.

While I know it’s part of the joke/storyline to a degree for us to get fleeting glimpses of our title character, I still couldn’t help but think, “Dude, that’s not really Schwarzenegger … In fact, I’m starting to wonder if this film is baiting me with 15 minutes of Arnie toward the conclusion of a 90-minute flick.”

I made the assumption that the guy on the poster and featured throughout the trailer would have a much smaller role than advertised. I was right. Cue the “I Am So Smart” parade and give me a cookie. Preferably one of those peanut butter cookies.

Even though it was sporadically funny and the minimal amount of Arnold was a letdown, it was still pretty nice to see a film that wasn’t a sequel, a remake, a reboot, a soft-reboot, a prequel, or a film that wasn’t based on a book, an old TV show, a toy, or an ideogram. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more grossly apparent that the idea of seeing a film not based on a previously created intellectual property in an actual multiplex theater is a done deal. That sucks. The bar has become so low nowadays that I’ll take the mild disappointment of Killing Gunther over another damn loudass special-effects spectacular based on something I’m already overly familiar with.

One more thing, I have to say how pleasing it was to hear the man known to us as Hercules, The Running Man, The Terminator, and Commando mutter, “Those fucking dickholes.” That was kinda funny.


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