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KILLING GUNTHER (2017) review

October 16, 2017

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written by: Taran Killam
produced by: Taran Killam, Ash Sarohia and Steven Squillante
directed by: Taran Killam
rated: R (for violence, language and some sexual material)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: September 22, 2017 (VOD, Amazon & iTunes) & October 20, 2017 (limited)

 

If you go into “Killing Gunther” because it’s the latest movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger then you’ll be disappointed. The actor gets less screen time in this action comedy than Harrison Ford did in “Blade Runner 2049”, which means he’s in “Killing Gunther” for somewhere around the last twenty minutes of the hour and a half runtime (and that’s a generous estimate), despite playing the titular hitman. Just like I instantly wanted more of Ford when he finally appears, this movie, written by Taran Killam (who also stars in and makes his directorial debut here)  is in desperate need of Schwarzenegger. I sighed in relief once he showed up, yet felt like the previous hour had been wasted. It’s as if a friend of yours invites you over to watch a movie at his home theater, but he winds up talking your ear off about a whole lot of nothing for an hour before the movie even starts – that’s “Killing Gunther” in a nutshell.

Killam’s story involves a group of inept and undisciplined contract killers who are banded together by an ambitious hitman named Blake (Killam) to track down and kill one of the most renown hitmen, Robert “Gunther” Bendik, and advance their careers in the process. Blake hires a documentary crew to follow them around in order to have irrefutable proof that they’re the ones who took down their target. After his elderly mentor, Ashley (Aubrey Sixto), is hospitalized, Blake and his partners, Iranian assassin Sanaa (Hannah Simone) and explosives expert, Donnie (Bobby Moynihan) look to recruit a team that can help them fulfill their mission.

 

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Indeed, a diverse motley crew who are still building their portfolio is assembled, during introductions which are intended to be humorous. There’s intelligence expert, Gabe (Paul Brittain) and former extremist Izzat (Amir Talai), known as “Crusher”, because he has a mechanical right arm that can, uh, crush things. A ridiculous poison specialist, Yong (Aaron Yoo), who throws veils of poison and his intended target and vomits at the sight of blood. Seriously. Two Russian brutes, Mia (Allison Tollman) and Barrold Bellakalakova (Ryan Gaul) also join the team and its unclear what their specialty is. Finally, they’re also joined by Blake’s ex-partner, Max (Steve Bacic), whom they encounter in an “undisclosed location”. Blake and his crew soon learn that the elusive Gunther is on to their every move and as their numbers begin to fatally dwindle, Blake starts to lose his mind, feeling responsible for the endless living hell their target is putting them through.

The big question that lingers for the first hour of “Killing Gunther” is “Why?”. Why is Blake obsessed with killing someone who could easily take him out? What has this guy done with him?

 

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It turns out its a tired and cliched reason as old as time. Blake is a jilted lover who is licking his wounds apparently. After his ex-girlfriend, Lisa McCabe (a too-brief, Cobie Smulders, real-life wife of Killam) dumped Blake, she went out with Gunther for a hot second and knowing that has been eating at Blake apparently. It doesn’t matter that they’re not together anymore, Blake is obsessed and despite not having a really convincing plan to take out Gunther, he’s determined to end the life of his self-made enemy.

Originally titled “Why We’re Killing Gunther”, this the comedy – a mockumentary of sorts – that Killam left SNL to go make and, well, I hope he had a good time making this unfunny cat-and-mouse game featuring dysfunctional assassins, because the end result is kind of a bore until the 70-year-old Ah-nuld shows up, and even then it only elicits a couple of chuckles due to the movie star’s energy and line delivery. While much of his scenes are heavy with exposition that over-explains everything that we’ve seen previously transpire, there’s still a slight payoff once he arrives.

“Killing Gunther” could’ve benefited from being a raucous short or a series of online segments, since it just doesn’t come together as a decent feature-length action comedy. The locations feel like studio sets, the characters are so inane and dumb they make me feel bad for the actors – except for Schwarzenegger, who I can’t feel bad for since he’s clearly having a good time. He’s a hoot to watch, especially at the very end during a “One Year Later” bit, which finds him retired in Austria where he helped cultivate an organic community garden for the local elderly. Sadly, that’s when it’s hilarious and then it’s over.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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