A film review by Craig J. Koban June 10, 2010



2010, PG-13, 99 mins.


Katherine Heigl: Jen / Ashton Kutcher: Spencer / Tom Selleck: Mr. Kornfeldt / Catherine O'Hara: Mrs. Kornfeldt

Directed by Robert Luketic / Written by Bob DeRosa and T.M. Griffin

Okay.  It’s official.  I just don’t get Katherine Heigl. 

No.  Seriously.  I don't.  I just don’t understand her motives in the TV and film business.  Either she’s a complete phony or hopelessly naïve or just a really bad judge of her projects.  And the sad thing is that I really, really like her: she’s splendidly gorgeous, a very likeable screen presence, and best of all is that she's a very good actor when she wants to be.  She is one of the very rare breeds of female screen stars that is able combine a sort of bumbling sweetness and easy-going adorability with a smoldering sex appeal.  That, and Heigl understands the delicate balancing act between playing comedy and drama.   

He film career rejuvenating work in Judd Apatow’s KNOCKED UP (2007) was revelatory where she had the dubious task of forging palpable screen chemistry with Seth Rogen and make us believe that a luminous goddess like her would actually fall for a tubby schlub.  She gave, for my money, one of the most tender, funny, and heartfelt performances – comedy or not – of that year.   

Then came a backlash on the film…from the star herself. 

Critics raved about her and the film, but then she scandalously came out in the press where she labeled it as “a little sexist” and then went on to state that her character – that I believed was fiercely independent and string willed – was a “shrew” that was  “humorless and uptight” whereas the male character were likeable and charming.  Huh?  Then my “WTF?” meter hit a all time incredulous high when Heigl made an infamous – and completely foolhardy – speech about taking herself out of the Emmy race because of what she felt was inferior writer of her character by the scribes of GREY’S ANATOMY, a show that essentially made her a star.  She stated  “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization.”

Okay…it took me a while to get here…but this is precisely why I don’t get Heigl.  She is so talented and she has done superlative work in KNOCKED UP, but then she makes outrageous comments regarding the sexism of said superlative work and the quality of her TV show…and then she allows herself to languish in one positively dreadful romcom after the next.  Even worse?  She allows herself to wallow and fester away in the type of characters that she publicly stated that she despises!  Remember 27 DRESSES where she played a troubled woman that only discovers herself when she finds the obligatory “right man”?  Then came the more obnoxiously condescending THE UGLY TRUTH where she once again played, as she might call it, a humorless shrew that’s uncomfortable within her own skin that allows an absolute troglodyte of a male suitor to teach her how to find and secure a man.   

This finally brings me to the horribly titled KILLERS, where Heigl – sigh – once again plays a humorless shrew character that has submerged herself within a lame and tired storyline that plays up to all of the patronizing clichés that – WTF!? – the actress has ssaid she despises.  If Heigl wants to present herself as a low-key feminist in the industry and then follows KNOCKED UP with a very lethally bad romcom trilogy of 27 DRESSES, THE UGLY TRUTH, and now KILLERS and expects us to take her seriously....then she's got a lot of explaining to do.

Just consider her character of Jen: she’s a dime-a-dozen subservient female character that seems about 50 years removed from a modern day empowered woman.  Despite having an absolutely flawless physique, a winning smile, a cover girl face, and the instant ability to attract just about any man she wants, Jen is a hopelessly unlucky in love and relationships.  That, and she also seems to have no clue as to how to use her sex appeal, that is until she is coxed and coached by the “right man”.  She is also a lonely and unstably uptight woman that oftentimes behaves like a child, so much so that her overbearing parents (in this case, played thanklessly by Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara) watch over her to “protect her.”  Oh wait, she is a career minded woman and seems good at her job, but with all of her office space savvy and competence she’s an absolute failure when it comes to approaching and talking to men.  Oh…yeah…when she’s nervous or suffers from high anxiety, she gorges on junk food and when frightened she gives high piercing, Fay Wray-like screams. 

Alas, this basket case of an otherwise super hot and well-off woman is saved by a man that she should not be with.  While on vacation with her parents in France Jen has a mysterious meet-cute with Spencer and the two – after initial awkward conversations – do end up hitting it off and go out on a date.  This, of course, is shown with the mind-numbingly predictable montage of Jen – being a complete misfit when it comes to dating  – frantically driving downtown to find a dress to make her look suitably fetching.  She is also so nervous on her date with Spencer that – when her father shows up at the same restaurant – she sheepishly tries to hide from him.  Seriously…are inordinately beautiful woman this uncomfortable on a first date? 

Needless to say, the two hit it off and as the film’s title cards reveal, they get married three years later and retire to a cozy life in suburbia.  One thing that Jen is blissfully unaware of is that her seemingly perfect beau is – make that was – actually an uncover killer for the CIA that decided to end it all when he met her in France years ago.  Unfortunately, Spencer’s higher ups do not like his insubordination and he has become a targeted and wanted man with a hefty bounty on his head.  Now, as to why it took the might and power of a clandestine government agency with unlimited resources and technology three years to finally track Spencer down is one of the film’s egregious mysteries, but nonetheless Spencer reveals his secret to Jen and the pair hit the road to avoid being terminated.  We then get a serious of despondently predictable and tired scenes of Jen whaling and shrieking with her hands in the air followed by routine moments of her failure to fire handguns further followed by more belittling moments of her heroic husband saving her damsel in distress keister. 

There definitely could have been some promise here for KILLERS to work as a dark and acerbic satire on suburban life and culture and the fragility of married life, but the film instead is an utter bore as a poor-man’s MR. AND MRS. SMITH.  The film has a wretchedly long build up and takes nearly two thirds of its running time before Jen and Spencer are on the run, but it's about 60 minutes too late.  Furthermore, director Robert Luketic (helmer of THE UGLY TRUTH) has no clue as to how to infuse some kinetic energy and tension into the action/chase scenes (note to directors out there: shaky camera moves does not equal suspense and intrigue).  More problematic is that he never generates any tangible chemistry between Heigl and Kutcher (speaking of which, has there ever been a less convincing hard-nosed and battle headed killer in the movies recently than waxed chested and mop toped Kucther?).  Hiring two very beautiful stars is one thing, but the pair must gel together cohesively for us to give a damn.  Those expecting snappy and witty dialogue exchanges and a genuine sense of repartee between them will be seriously under-whelmed.  This is not not helped by how Kutcher – monotone, flat, and charmless – seems so distracted in his role. 

There are far too many other issues with KILLERS to mention in closing, one of which would be it’s preposterously contrived and dubiously convenient conclusion that you can see with stunning unavoidability (you just know that Tom Selleck and his MAGNUM P.I. moustache were not gonna sit this film out without getting involved in the mindless mayhem), and all of the would-be subversive and satirical gags – involving Internet porn, domineering alcoholic parents, pregnancy tests, suburban block parties and annoying neighbors, and so on - miss their marks altogether.  The ultimate shame of KILLERS is that Heigl once again emerges as a bit of a hypocrite.  She can be so winning, funny, cute, and emotionally grounded and believable when given the right opportunity, but the way she has allowed herself during the course of three disdainfully backwards minded films to trivially play stereotypically ditzy, clumsy, and infantile women is borderline unforgivable on her part.  

I guess that I just don’t get her, but for a woman that seems to be a self-described and astute critic of worthy and sturdily written female roles, she clearly does not have her finger on the pulse of her career path.  She's in desperate need of a road map.. 

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