UK Release Date: 2nd April 2018
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Taran Killam
Writer: Taran Killam
Starring: Taran Killam, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Paul Brittain, Aaron Yoo, Cobie Smulders
Synopsis: A group of young assassins decide to band together in order to take down a legendary veteran of the hitman game, with the goal of fame and money in mind.
The VOD world is packed with half-baked action comedies, often starring minor television actors, with one major Hollywood star in tow. That pretty much describes Killing Gunther, which is written and directed by former Saturday Night Live regular Taran Killam, who also takes on the leading role. The requisite Hollywood man is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plays the eponymous veteran hitman – the subject of a scheme by a group of younger assassins to take him out of the game. Despite its rather generic trappings, there’s an invention and a silliness to this that elevates it above the rest.
In a bizarre twist to the action-comedy formula, Killam has decided to present the story from the perspective of a documentary crew his character, Blake, has hired to provide proof for his moment of glory. He resents Gunther’s success, as well as the fact the older man hooked up with his ex-girlfriend Lisa (Cobie Smulders). Blake assembles a team to help him in his quest, including explosives expert Donnie (Bobby Moynihan) and badass Sanaa (Hannah Simone), whose father is a famous hitman as well.
Every frame of Killing Gunther is rough around the edges. There’s nothing slick about it at all, but the rickety feel gives it a sense of unruly charm. It’s an anarchic, ramshackle story that drifts off in odd directions, as well as delivering a bizarre series of running jokes in amongst the inevitable periods of variable improvisation from the comedy actors in front of the camera, whether they’re from SNL (Moynihan, Paul Brittain) or sitcom land (Simone). Some of the gags are big and broad, but there’s delightful oddness in gags about Russian psychopaths who love Mickey Mouse and a pleasant self-referential streak – one gag about “enhancing” CCTV images is particularly fun.
The true star, though, is Schwarzenegger of course. He’s having more fun here than he has in a long time, whether he’s referring to his pursuers as “fucking dickholes” or regaling the audience with a surprise career shift towards country and western music. Stay tuned over the credits for that particular treat. Killing Gunther makes us all wait over an hour before Schwarzenegger finally turns up, but it’s well worth the wait when he appears for one of his most entertaining roles in years.
For everything that’s sloppy and uneven about Killing Gunther, there’s something that’s joyous and silly. It’s a movie that throws absolutely everything at its madcap premise and, inevitably, quite a lot of it lands exactly where Killam and his cast hope it will. At a lean 90 minutes, it’s energetic and bonkers enough to keep the momentum moving until the final credits roll.
Pop or Poop?
A big, self-referential Arnold Schwarzenegger performance is the carrot SNL star Taran Killam dangles in front of the audience to help them through Killing Gunther, which makes the audience wait for the pay-off. The intervening hour or so, though, is filled with comedic energy, even if there’s an inevitable hit and miss nature to the zingers and the improvisation. By the time Arnie starts singing a country song, though, the film has established itself as a very worthy VOD purchase.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Killing Gunther will be available to watch on digital download from April 2.