An interesting approach doesn't make up for the predictable comedy and sub-par action.
Taran Killam write and stars in his directorial debut Killing Gunther, a mockumentary about a group of assassins, which also sees Arnold Schwarzenegger slip into a familiar role. However, despite the film’s unique approach and likeable cast, the predictable humour and lacklustre story make it a bit of a chore to watch.
Blake (Taran Killam), a professional hitman, decides that the only way for him to be the best in his profession is to take out the man currently on that perch; Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger). After hastily putting together a team, including fellow assassins Donnie (Bobby Moynihan) and Sanaa (Hannah Simone), and hiring a documentary crew to film their efforts, Blake soon realises that killing the deadliest hitman in the world won’t be as straightforward as he planned. As the stakes become more personal, Blake becomes increasingly determined to put the illusive Gunther down.
As far as the concept goes, Killing Gunther reads well on paper. The idea of a documentary crew essentially being forced to follow around a team of hitmen as they try to take down a seemingly invincible target is certainly interesting enough. However, in execution, the film proves to be quite boring. Yes, there are a lot of explosions, poorly done ones at that, in what could be called action sequences, but whereas the documentary perspective is so static, everything just feels very flat and stale. There’s no real cinematic feel to the movie and, although it’s Killing Gunther‘s style to be more grounded, it doesn’t mean it works.
The comedy is laid on thick throughout and whilst there are a few chuckle-worthy moments, the majority of the humour is predictable, on the nose and, crucially, unfunny. Taran Killam is not bad as Blake and does have a fair share of enjoyable moments, but his over the top delivery of the already poorly written jokes is cringe-inducing more often than not. The rest of the cast find themselves in a similar position as even when their performances work, the dialogue they are delivering does not.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role as Gunther is somewhat minimal for most of the film, with the actor only playing a major role in the last twenty minutes or so. Whilst it’s always good to see Arnie bringing his charismatic presence to the screen though, it’s somewhat diminished here as the script just tries to fit in as many references to his past films as possible. It’s also apparent that, despite Gunther being built up throughout, when we finally meet him, we just get Arnold Schwarzenegger, as it quickly becomes apparent the Austrian is just playing himself.
The rest of the cast is likeable enough with some of them really getting into their respective roles. The characters they portray though are two dimensional at best, with their individual quirks mostly being there just for show and not really having an effect on their actual personality bar one. The problem is that despite how much this bunch clearly want to kill Gunther, the only person given real motivation to do so is Blake, and even then, you never really feel invested in his story or care if he succeeds.
Overall, Killing Gunther is a disappointment as with its promising cast and concept, it could have been a great little film. Instead, it gets bogged down with clichés, unfunny and obvious humour, and boring action. Even you’re just in it for the Arnie, it’s probably not worth your time.
Killing Gunther (2018), directed by Taran Killam, is distributed in the UK by GEM Entertainment, certificate 15.