Whenever we post a trailer, preview, or round-up of reviews for a completely atrocious-looking film, someone in the comments always responds with, "Oh, it looks so, so bad. Like awful. But...I'll go see it anyway."
**Warning: There are spoilers ahead, so if you plan on "seeing it anyway," you might want to turn back now.**
In some ways, I guess, I can understand the "I'll see it anyway" mentality: sometimes, a trailer doesn't do a film justice, or reviewers seem to miss the point, and a movie that looks like a stinker on the surface turns out to be a surprising little gem. And other times, a movie looks SO bad (see: Gigli) that you feel the need to see it just to see what all the fuss is about. But Killers is neither a gem or a cult classic in the making. If anything, it has "wait for the TBS premiere" written all over it: the film wasn't even screened for critics, which is a huge red flag, and those critics have since retaliated by giving the film its current 06% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is not a film that will gain a cult-like following, nor is it a film that your co-workers will want to gossip about come Monday. It's a film that doesn't quite know what it is, but we'll get to that in a minute.
All I knew going into this movie was that I didn't want to see it. At all. In February, I even wrote a post about the film's trailer which I titled, "Killers Trailer Proves That Katherine Heigl And Ashton Kutcher Are Intent On Destroying Love Forever." But after seeing so many "but I'm gonna see it anyway" comments during the SATC2 blitz that took place earlier this month, I decided to see Killers as an experiment of sorts, to test whether going to see a film, despite all evidence pointing to "Oh girl, don't," is really worth it. Because I love you guys that much. And also because they sell Peanut M&Ms at the theater.
After a very stylish opening, the film begins on an airplane: Heigl, recently dumped for being too "safe," is on vacation with her drunk mother (Catherine O'Hara) and her overprotective father (Tom Selleck), who speaks to her as if she's still 5 years old and insists, once they get to the hotel, that she have the hotel room right next to her parents, so that he can protect her from all of the dangerous French creeps who apparently prey on pretty American blondes. It doesn't work, naturally: Heigl keeps her room and ducks out on her parents to get some rest, and she meets Ashton Kutcher, shirtless, in an elevator. It's love at first sight! And by love, I mean, these two really good-looking people want to have sex, right away. At this point, I was actually a bit surprised: Kutcher and Heigl were much more likable than I expected them to be together. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "this will turn out to be not so bad."
Kutcher, who is a spy for the CIA, by the way, is on assignment in France, which makes sense, because if you want someone doing high-profile spy work for you, it's best to hire someone who looks like Ashton Kutcher. Nobody will notice that guy or his terrible French accent that he tries to impress Heigl with before following her out to the pool area and asking her to dinner. She says yes, naturally, because Kutcher looks good with his shirt off and everyone who has been in France for approximately 5 minutes should accept dinner invites from strange men who follow them out of the elevator.
Heigl buys a sassy dress downtown and the two meet for dinner, but Kutcher, hiding from his CIA work, and Heigl, hiding from her overprotective parents, decide to leave the hotel restaurant and go dancing. They end up in Heigl's hotel room, where she asks Kutcher to cut her out of her dress, as it's too tight and driving her crazy. So Kutcher does, using a HUGE knife, the kind of knife only hunters and serial killers keep on hand, but Heigl is drunk, so she doesn't really mind, and proceeds to pass out on the bed as Kutcher tells her, while she's asleep, that he kills people. That's how he says it, too. "I kill people." And this is where my "I'll go see it anyway" hopes started to die down a bit.
If this scene had different music in the background, it would be a horror film. Nice girl goes to France, meets up with shady dude, gets drunk, gets taken back to her hotel room and cut out of her dress with a hunting knife while her suitor proclaims that he is, in fact, a murderer. The whole thing is creepy and uncomfortable, but since Heigl doesn't hear it, she continues dating this dude (who, by the way, takes her out on dates while he's on a dangerous CIA assignment, thereby putting her very life in danger because he thinks she's cute) and eventually marries him. Kutcher "gets out" of the killing business as he marries Heigl (who is still unaware of all of this) and moves with her to the suburbs, where we catch up with them three years later.
The pair have moved to the suburbs, which is where the movies contempt for all things domestic and suburban kicks in: the neighbors are all dumb robots in neon clothing, and Kutcher, who continues to dress like he's at a GQ photo shoot even while driving to his suburban architectural firm, admires them for how "normal" they are. Heigl's parents are an ever-present force, lingering over the couple's marriage and every waking hour, but overall the couple seems happy. Of course, things go wrong when Kutcher gets a message on his 30th birthday from his old boss, and then, for some reason, everyone starts trying to kill him, starting with his douche-bro best friend, played by Rob Riggle, who is written to be so repulsive that the audience enjoys watching him meet his end.
Except...that's not really what happens. Long story short: Kutcher has a 20 million dollar bounty on his head, and all of the neighbors we met in the first 45 minutes of the film, the "normals" who Kutcher admires so much, turn out to be plants who were sent to inflitrate his life and take him out when the moment was right. This leads to all kinds of admissions and shenanigans: Kutcher, running for his life with Heigl in tow, lets her know that he's actually killed 15 people. This, after three years of marriage. We're supposed to believe that Kutcher was "protecting" Heigl from his past, but in reality, Kutcher is kind of a sociopath who has put his wife in grave danger for years and allowed their marriage to be based on nothing but lies. You know, for her own good. Because women be crazy! They can't handle honesty and whatever! They need to be protected like little lambs, by their shady liar husbands and their creepy, gun-toting fathers.
Kutcher and Heigl then take out roughly 7 of their friends and neighbors—the majority being women—in particularly horrible ways, with Heigl causing the most gruesome death in the film by accidentally shooting down an antler-filled chandelier and brutally impaling one of Kutcher's female co-workers turned would-be assassins. After the death, Heigl, who has spent the majority of the movie as a worry wart, doesn't even scream or cry. She just gets mad at Kutcher and leaves. And why? Because she's just taken a pregnancy test, and it has come back positive. And murder just doesn't register when you're pissed at the father of your child for being a lying sack of shit, I guess.
Her anger wears off quickly, however, and she returns to Kutcher just in time to save him from a woman attempting to hit him with her car—the same woman, it should be noted, that was blatantly hitting on Kutcher during a neighborhood party the couple threw. The woman's death (car explosion by gas tank) reeked of "That's my man, bitch!" and the audience watching the film with me, who had been laughing at the couples romantic foibles in the first half of the film, suddenly became silent, watching these ancillary characters being killed in horrific fashion. I guess we were supposed to find all of this funny, or exciting. But this isn't Hot Fuzz or To Catch A Thief: this is a film that spends its entire first half trying to get us to care about the three-year marriage between a very sweet woman and a dude who lies and kills people, and when his past catches up with him, we kind of hate him for it. We're supposed to think that Kutcher is good, and that everyone he kills is bad, but he never earns that, and the film just feels like an exercise in needless deaths and a strange brand of misogyny that dictates that women need to be drunks, super protected, or killed off for attempting to fight back against a man who is clearly intent on killing them.
In the end, we learn that it was Heigl's father who set the whole thing up, due to some dumb misunderstanding I still don't get, because—surprise—Heigl's father is a secret agent, too! No wonder her mother drinks so much! Her father is also a lying sociopath who confuses "protection" with "deception." Heigl points this out by noting that she married a man exactly like her father, "a liar," but in the end the family's hidden pasts, and the bodies of their neighbors, and one of Heigl's former best friends, played by Casey Wilson, lie all around them like fallen party balloons or broken beer bottles. The movie closes with a cutesy bit where everyone decides to get along, and though Heigl makes a speech of sorts, all I could hear in my head was "Wasn't that fun? People we trusted and cared about for three years are all dead! They were trying to kill us! Oh, daddy! I can't believe you set people up to MURDER MY HUSBAND! But I'm pregnant, so let's all try to be friends." She then asserts her "new found independence" by punching an annoying female neighbor in the face. Go, women, go!
The symbolism of this film is so overt that it's almost funny: Selleck and Kutcher spend a great deal of time brandishing their guns, waving around their phallic symbols of protection for poor little Katherine Heigl, who just can't keep her husband and her "daddy" from fighting over what's best for her, and Kutcher and Heigl are both wearing white during their all-out killing spree, presumably to remind the audience that they're the good guys, as their bright white clothing remains spotless despite the fact that they've just contributed to the very gruesome deaths of at least seven people.
The main problem with Killers, aside from its heavy reliance on rom-com cliches and stock characters (Catherine O'Hara, for example, plays Heigl's mother, and spends every scene she's in getting drunk for comedic effect. Novel!), is that it never really figures out how to pair Heigl and Kutcher's love story with the bang 'em up action scenes that fill the latter half of the film. It expects the audience to love and care about these characters for the first 45 minutes of the film so that we won't hate them when they go on a massive killing spree, and it expects the audience to find it hilarious that the suburban neighbors (who are the worst, by the way, this film wants you to know, as everyone in Hollywood remains convinced that everyone who lives in the suburbs is a soulless robot who keeps their lawn freshly watered with the tears resulting from their lost and broken dreams) are picked off in increasingly violent ways. But nobody in this movie is good. Nobody in this movie deserves to be happy. And maybe that's the point. Maybe that's the underlying message: marriage is like a death chase, and even though you might survive, you'll probably get pretty beaten up along the way. Romance is dead, anyway, so why not shoot at it?
If I had to pick two words to describe this film, I'd probably go with "aggressively mediocre." It's not good, but it's not as laughably god-awful as the reviews make it seem. It's just a movie that doesn't work on several levels, the kind of movie that wants to appeal to a certain audience but doesn't quite know what that audience is, the kind of movie that embraces dated, irritating cliches, that attempts to substitute "good-looking" for "good character," that kind of seems to hate women at times (except the really pretty ones, who are worthy of love and therefore should survive at all costs), and that will be made again and again, because in the end, despite all the warning signs, despite all of the bad reviews, despite all the bad word of mouth, despite the fact that everyone is somewhat aware they're supporting this kind of thing being made simply by showing up, people will go see it anyway.
Katherine Heigl: The Definitive Vulture Analysis Of The Divisive Rom-Com Queen [NYMag]
Killers Reviews [Rotten Tomatoes]