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Killing Gunther Review

Killing Gunther is a 2017 action comedy about a group of eccentric assassins who are fed up with Gunther, the world’s greatest hitman, and decide to kill him.

The thing about a good mockumentary has always been the believability of the characters. Think of any one of the Christopher Guest films, from This is Spinal Tap to Best in Show, comedies that have always stretched the truth for a laugh but in doing so, made sure everyone in the story was goofy yet authentic and that no matter how silly, seemed like people we already know. This is perhaps the main problem in Taran Killam‘s Killing Gunther, a one-dimensional comedy that works hard to be something more than it is, even as it earns a few laughs along the way. It’s a film you really want to like, but it just can’t make the most of its good cast and clever setup.

Blake (Killam) is a sleek, suit-wearing assassin who has had it up to here with his career’s biggest show-off and most successful killer, Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is getting all the action. So, he gathers up a group of equally troubled and quirky hitmen and women, including Sanaa (Hannah Simone), a beautiful weapon’s expert, Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), a manic demolitions guy, Yong (Aaron Yoo), a poison specialist, Izzat (Amir Talai), a cybernetically-enhanced killer, and Gabe (Paul Brittain), a computer tech, to come together and help take Gunther out. And to prove that Blake is the mastermind of the whole affair, he’s hired a two-person documentary crew to follow them around and film their exploits. Turns out, Gunther’s not so easy to kill, and Blake soon finds himself in way over his head.

It’s a little hard to get around the fact that Killing Gunther feels like a 6-minute comedy sketch stretched to 90, and while it might have worked much better as the former, what we get instead is a long wink at the camera and a series of half-baked gags mixed with a few good ones, most thanks to Moynihan who is funny every time he opens his mouth. Seriously. Schwarzenegger shows up way late in the film and looks to be having some good fun with the goofiness, even in drag and lederhosen, but even he’s not enough to take this over the edge. He’s fun to watch, and he seems to ‘get’ it all, but it too little too late.

Truly, the weakest link in all this is the documentary angle that constantly forces the film to be about that rather than the story, which might have had more opportunity to be a darker comedy, à la Shane Black if it had freed itself of the need for every frame to be shot as it was. Since the conceit leaves the entire film in the hands of on-screen amatuer documentarians, the movie is stripped of any real style, with what little action there is interrupted by characters just talking to the camera. That works in a film about a dog show but not here because we have no empathy for killers. Yes, it’s a comedy, but the movie has no one to root for, even at it makes a leap for such with a few of them in the end.

Killing Gunther does have some laughs and the cast is certainly game, including what amounts to a cameo by Colbie Smulders, however too often it plays out with little momentum. It’s too self aware and always keeps us in on the joke, never letting it be as sharp as it should.

Killing Gunther Review

Movie description: Killing Gunther is a 2017 action comedy about a group of eccentric assassins who are fed up with Gunther, the world's greatest hitman, and decide to kill him.

Director(s): Taran Killam

Actor(s): Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Cobie Smulders, Hannah Simone

Genre: Comedy

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