REVIEW: Katherine Heigl Just the Beginning of Killers' Problems
In a world more perfect than the one we live in, you'd expect a romantic comedy called Killers to, well, kill -- with charm if nothing else. But the best Killers can manage is a little girly slap; it's so ineffectual and unfocused that after it's over, you're not even sure you watched a movie.
Ashton Kutcher plays Spencer Ames, a super-spy hit man who, while on assignment in Nice, meets the vacationing Jen Kornfeldt (Katherine Heigl). It's love at first sight, almost, although Jen feels dorky because she's on holiday with her parents: Dad (Tom Selleck) is an overprotective former airline pilot; mom (a misused Catherine O'Hara) is a boozy old gal. Jen has just been dumped by her boyfriend, who has accused her of being unadventurous (she defends herself against that charge, ever-so-cutely, by claiming that she dislikes bungee jumping and doesn't like vomiting in public). But Spencer doesn't think she's boring. He's sick of killing people and longs to live in the suburbs. For him, Jen, with her perky smile and sparkly but vacant blue eyes, is a walking target, the perfect recipient for all the love and boring stability he's got to offer.
Fast-forward, or at least somnambulate-forward, three years: Spencer has a stable job working for a building contractor. Jen does something-or-other, but apparently, she does it really, really well, because she wears nice clothes to work and her boss relies on her to give big presentations and stuff. One day, Spencer's old life comes back to haunt him in a big way. Jen finds out, and she just can't believe it. She's been betrayed! Her trust has been broken! She pouts and goes around looking deeply wounded. Suddenly she's forgotten how, just a few weeks earlier, Spencer had sweetly, secretly, rearranged her home office for her, organizing things by putting them into little wicker baskets and chintz-covered boxes tied with bows. Apparently, that's not enough for her: This cute little chipmunk is out for blood; whatever nuts Spencer has left, she's gonna crush 'em.
Of course, everything will end adorably, with husband and wife achieving newfound respect for one another. Meanwhile, we want to kill them -- or at least Heigl's Jen. It's hard to know why that is: Is the problem the movie's lazy, rambly script (by Bob DeRosa and T.M. Griffin, from a story by DeRosa)? Its slapdash direction (by Robert Luketic)? Or is it Heigl herself, who, particularly after her equally petulant turn in the heinous The Ugly Truth (also directed by Luketic), has become a bit too skilled at playing the prissy, entitled young woman who just wants perfection in a guy -- is that so much to ask? Obviously, in The Ugly Truth, as in this picture, Heigl's character must learn assorted valuable lessons about other people's flaws, and her own as well. Still, in both movies Heigl coasts too comfortably on the old indignant-cherub routine. Time for her to find a third expression, something beyond wide-eyed bubbliness and wide-eyed umbrage.
Killers does flirt with some potentially interesting ideas (for instance, the paranoia that the relentless "niceness" of suburbia can foster), only to handle them as stupidly as possible. In one early sequence, Spencer cuts Jen out of a really tight white dress with his handy superspy knife. It might have been a reasonably sexy, funny moment, but Luketic wrecks it by putting what I like to call tiptoeing-elf music behind it -- you know, that generic, plucked-strings nonsense served up with a mischievous Keebler wink.
Only Kutcher manages to keep his cool in the midst of all this drab nonsense. The actor is perhaps too handsome for his own good; it's been too easy for people to write him off as a dull, good-looking lug. But it's a mistake to underestimate him, especially considering how much understated sparkle Kutcher adds to the dim-bulb jokes in Killers. When Spencer's boss (played by Rob Riggle) solicits his opinion of a stag-horn chandelier he's just installed in company headquarters, Spencer pronounces it "Bambi's nightmare." Kutcher is just enough of a smart-ass to make the line sound casual and natural -- in some ways, he'll always be wearing an invisible backwards trucker cap on his head. But in an earlier scene, where Spencer -- still a hit man -- professes to the sleeping Jen, "I hate what I do. But I like you," he turns a line that might have been slapped down in 10 seconds into a moment of austere, heartfelt believability. Kutcher has the capacity to slay, but he's wasted in Killers.