KILLING GUNTHER (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Language, and some Sexual Material

Directed by: Taran Killam

Written by: Taran Killam

Starring: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Peter Kelamis, Aaron Yoo, Paul Brittain, Amir Talai, Ryan Gaul, Allison Tolman, Cobie Smulders & Arnold Schwarzenegger

KILLING GUNTHER sounds like a great movie on paper. It has Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wildly over-the-top role and he’s clearly relishing every second of it. The film takes a mockumentary approach to contract killers and has a hilarious premise. Sadly, KILLING GUNTHER is an underwhelming disappointment for many reasons…not the least of which being that Schwarzenegger is barely in this thing, even though he’s playing the title character. Aside from a couple of funny bits and a few chuckles, there aren’t many positive qualities to be found in KILLING GUNTHER.

Blake (Taran Killam, who’s also the director and writer behind this mess) is an up-and-coming hitman. Though he exudes confidence, it’s clear that Blake really needs to learn more of the contract killing ropes. In an effort to become the #1 hitman in the world, Blake is attempting to take down the mysterious killer known as “Gunther” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). To do this, Blake gathers a documentary crew and colorful band of eccentric assassins. However, the shadowy “Gunther” seems to be aware of Blake’s attempts to kill him…and the body count begins to rise. If
“Gunther” doesn’t kill these contract killers, the dysfunctional relationships between them just might.

KILLING GUNTHER starts off strong. The film’s funniest moments spring from the first 15 minutes and a couple of supporting characters (who are sadly not around long enough to save a majority of the running time). The set-up of gathering this mismatched band of hitmen together is pretty entertaining to watch and shows a lot of promise for the events to follow. However, the film’s momentum only lasts so long before things begin to go downhill in a dull way. Even though it runs at slightly over 80 minutes in length, there are numerous dull spots that will likely bore the viewer far more than they elicit laughs.

Most of the film’s faults fall directly onto the shoulders of director/writer/actor Taran Killam, who takes a great premise and woefully underwhelms with a cheap execution that squanders most of the outlandish potential. Killam spent about six years in the cast of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and you’d hope this film would be funnier due to those credentials alone. Killam’s protagonist is a boring bland cardboard character. Even though he gets a few laughs in his introduction, this annoying hitman quickly wears out his welcome very fast. The same can be said for most of the other cast members, especially Bobby Moynihan (as redneck explosives expert Donnie) and Hannah Simone (as the most serious assassin of the bunch). These two get laughs early on and then quickly become tiresome.

The funniest cast member is easily Aaron Yoo as a poison-obsessed killer, who refuses to touch a gun. As you might imagine, he’s pretty much useless in a firefight and a certain scene resulted in a huge laugh from me. The only other noteworthy performance belongs to Arnold Schwarzenegger…you know, the selling point of this film for most people. Unfortunately, he only pops up for the final 25 minutes. Arnold does receive some chuckles and makes the film way more entertaining in his scenes. However, it’s too little executed far too late and this inevitably results in a lot of disappointment from those who wanted to see an action-comedy with Arnold.

KILLING GUNTHER’s tiny budget becomes apparent in its on-screen fire and explosions. While the film convincingly has a few decent gun fights, the fire effects and explosions look like they were added with Flash Animation. This is quality that I’d expect from a cheap YouTube video and not a film that clearly had enough money to attract Arnold Schwarzenegger (even if it seems like he was only brought on set for a couple of days, if his small screen time is any indication). In some ways, I feel like I’m picking on a small film by ripping into this movie. What can I say though? It’s a missed opportunity and not a good film.

The premise behind KILLING GUNTHER is hilarious and there are some big laughs during the first 15 minutes. However, things quickly spiral downhill as forced humor becomes tedious, annoying characters overstay their welcomes, and the film slowly trudges towards Arnold’s brief screen time that should have been a main focus of the film…and not regulated to the last third. It’s not a complete failure due to two solid performances (Yoo and Schwarzenegger) and some good jokes, but KILLING GUNTHER remains a huge disappointment nonetheless. Unless you’re a Schwarzenegger purist and absolutely need to see this film, then you should just skip over this missed opportunity.

Grade: D+

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