I seek not beyond death
Killing Gunther (2017): 7 out of 10: The story centers on a group of eccentric international assassins who are fed up with Gunther, the world’s greatest hitman. Not only is Gunther considered the best at what he does, but he also has an annoying habit of taunting his competitors, making them look foolish.
Blake (played by writer/director Taran Killam), has his personal reasons for wanting Gunther dead. He assembles a team of hitmen and hit women with varied skills. Their aim is to collaborate and eliminate Gunther, taking his place at the top. To document their ambitious mission and immortalize their expected success, they hire a documentary crew to film their attempts to track down and kill Gunther.
However, their plan to kill Gunther quickly turns into a series of comical misadventures. They soon realize that taking down the world’s best hitman isn’t as easy as they thought. Gunther always seems to be one step ahead, resulting in hilarious encounters and failed attempts.
In a twist, it’s revealed that Gunther himself is fully aware of the team’s intentions and is even manipulating situations for his amusement, further proving his superiority as a hitman.
As the team members face internal conflicts, betrayals, and many failures, they eventually confront Gunther, leading to a final showdown.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the titular character, Gunther, and brings his trademark charisma and comedic timing to the role, making “Killing Gunther” an entertaining blend of action and humor.
The Good: Sometimes you just want a movie that requires little thought. Just turn your brain off and enjoy the shenanigans on screen. Killing Gunther fits this bill to a tee. It is occasionally funny. SNL’s Bobby Moynihan is a hoot. The mockumentary is handled well with a few fun twists to the formula.
In addition, the last twenty minutes or so with Arnold are a delight. Arnold’s screen presence and sense of humor dwarf the other people in the film, but he is such a delight I don’t care.
The Bad: If someone were to make a list on why Killing Gunther is a terrible movie, they would not lack in material. The best part of the film (Arnie natch) waits seventy minutes to make an appearance. There are too many characters. Many of the characters are more funny on paper more than they are funny in performance. Many jokes are meta and fall into the “Sensible Chuckle” zone. The direction is amateur. Some characters are clearly playing a bit rather than playing the role straight, which is much funnier. (See This Is Spinal Tap for a classic mockumentary example.)
And I won’t even delve into the story. When I said you need to turn off your brain, I meant it. Even the primary idea of an amateur documentary crew following secret assassins doesn’t hold water for a minute. To make matters worse, there are a few jokes that are funny once or twice (Hannah Simone’s overprotective Iranian father (Peter Kelamis) gag.) that are stomped into the ground with repetition. Oh, and the main character is a charisma black hole that is impossible to root for. (Which might have been on purpose?)
The Ugly: Who is Taran Killam? Yeah, I didn’t know either, which ironically makes him the perfect assassin. Apparently he was on Saturday Night Live for a six years and appeared in that notorious comedy 12 Years a Slave as Hamilton. Killing Gunther is his baby. He wrote and directed and had his wife Cobie Smulders (Robin in How I Met Your Mother) star alongside him. He actually has an impressive filmography and a hot Canadian wife who raked in the big bucks. So, in reality, good for him.
Am I getting a Dax Shephard making CHIPS vibe here? Yeah, a little. Killing Gunther is a lot funnier than CHIPS and a hell of a lot less obnoxious. I can’t help but feel that Taran should have had someone else direct. Maybe a Zucker brother or Christopher Guest. Someone who has pulled this off before. There are too many scenes that scream my first movie here. Like I said, Killing Gunther is a good time. But one can not help but feel with a little polish it could have been great.
In Conclusion: Action Comedies can be hard to pull off. Killing Gunther is a flawed but well-meaning attempt. Kind of a lighthearted version of Bullets, Blood & a Fistful of Ca$h (Now that is an action comedy made with even a smaller budget that punched above its weight.)
It’s hard not to root for Taran Killam. He seems like a much nicer person than Dax Shephard. And for a hitman movie, he has put out a lighthearted and fun affair. I just wish it was a better.