… A Comedy That Is Relentlessly Devoid Of Laughs
There are so very many ways for a movie to be bad. A swing and a miss. A reach beyond grasp. Ideas that worked better on the page than on the screen. The list goes on. I submit that perhaps the very worst experience available to a viewer in all of film watching is sitting through a comedy film which is profoundly unfunny. The thing about comedies is that often all they’re offering is laughs. Sure, many are creative, or visually compelling, or filled with characters we love. But laughs are what you pay admission for. Perhaps more importantly, laughs are what the filmmakers and actors are all aiming for. There are few things more cinematically painful than watching a cast work really hard to make you laugh and fail with consistency. That’s the experience that Killing Gunther offers, and it is a rough watch.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the cover of the Killing Gunther Blu-ray. He’s in the trailer of the movie. He’s even an executive producer on the film. The entire movie is about the pursuit and assassination of his character, Gunther. He probably has a grand total of 7 minutes of screen time. And they’re the last 7 minutes. Those 7 minutes? They’re by far the best 7 minutes of this mercifully short and suffocatingly unengaging comedy film. Arnold seems to be having a blast mocking the young assassins attempting to best him at his game (and sporting another hip old guy hairstyle a la his killer coif in Sabotage). Arnold breathes life (though not outright laughs) into the film when he finally arrives, but this is far too little, far too late.
And it’s not as though I’m an Arnold Schwarzenegger apologist. I am a fan and go out of my way to check out his films, but I’ve had very little love for recent projects like Terminator Genisys or Aftermath. Arnold was actually the very worst part of The Expendables 2, with an overreliance on his “classic” one-liners. It just happens that Arnold is by far the best thing in Killing Gunther and is the only redemptive element of this entire film. The fault for the dreadfulness of this film simply doesn’t lie at Arnold’s feet.
Having not watched an episode of Saturday Night Live in probably twenty years, I’m not at all familiar with Killing Gunther writer/director/star Taran Killam. Apparently he’s married to Cobie Smulders, who he probably hired on the cheap to do him a solid and appear in this film. I guess he’s also in 12 Years A Slave?! Regardless, it was painful to watch him as lead assassin Blake in Killing Gunther. His character is devoid of any interesting characteristics, he tries too hard to sell comedy bits that just aren’t there, and, it seems both Blake and Killam drag their friends along for an ill fated project.
I’m sure many of the other cast are up and coming names in the world of comedy, though the only ones I recognize are SNL alum Bobby Moynihan and the wonderful Allison Tolman (Fargo, Barracuda). Regardless, none really have an opportunity to showcase their talents with this lifeless script. The idea is that these assassins have all hired a documentary crew in order to capture on film the elimination of Gunther, the world’s greatest assassin. So you have Blake and crew talking to the documentary crew ala The Office. You have a variety of different traps and plans go awry as our bumbling assassins (who never even remotely feel like anything other than a gaggle of comedians improving together) try to murder Arnold… who is never actually seen on screen for an interminably long period of time. It’s gruelingly tiresome and shockingly poorly realized.
Hung on a documentary-style approach that is tired and dated, relying on improv bits that are painfully unfunny, stretching out a premise that maybe could have worked as a short but fails spectacularly as a feature, there’s absolutely no way to recommend Killing Gunther to really anyone except Arnold Schwarzenegger completists. And even then, I’d argue that just watching the final 7 minutes or so of the film, once Arnold actually shows up on screen, would be a vastly superior experience to suffering through the whole film.
I honestly don’t have anything nice to say about Killing Gunther. The movie looks cheap and ugly. It has some deleted scenes and bloopers on the disc, but I’d have to be getting paid to watch the scenes that DIDN’T make it into this movie. Avoid Killing Gunther and just pick up Terminator 2 on 4K UHD this week.
And I’m Out.
Killing Gunther is now available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.