Friday Movies:


Killers is one of those brightly entertaining movies that reveal their charms — or the lack thereof — in repeated viewings. It’s impossible to tell, the first time, whether Katherine Heigl is credible as Jen, the dumped fiancée of a computer geek, a shy girl who is so taken with Ashton Kutcher’s smirking abs that she “follows” him to the beach by inferring his destination from his shirtlessness and heading in that direction a few paces ahead. Is Mr Kutcher credible as Spencer, a top assassin who has tired of his profession and wants only to put down roots? Only time will tell. The meet-cute prologue to the movie, set in lovely and luxurious Nice, France, is not difficult to sit through, but Killers might have been a better movie without it.

Once Killers settles down to business, we discover that it is a new kind of screwball comedy. In the standard screwball, two people who are clearly made for one another are obliged to overcome stiff resistance to acknowledging that fact. In Killers, the quarrel lies not between the lovers but between Spencer and his father-in-law (Tom Selleck). This is not immediately apparent, but its eventual inevitability overcomes its improbability. The movie’s argument is that Spencer will have a hard time walking away from his past, even though he and Jen have enjoyed three years of marital bliss and, more to the point, Spencer has adapted to a career as a residential developer. When Spencer gets a call from his former boss (Martin Mull), he naturally begins acting nervous, and a suspicious postcard that falls into his father-in-law’s hands makes it seems that he has not been true to Jen.

The trouble begins the morning after a birthday party for Spencer that Jen — she all unaware of his past life (and the associated déformation professionelle that would contra-indicate events beginning with totally unexpected crowds shouting “Surprise!”) — has managed to pull off. Spencer is thinking about breakfast when an overly hearty colleague who seems to have passed out in the living room after the party lunges at Spencer with a knife — and he is not joking! Other friends and neighbors morph into unneighborly enemies. What’s going on? And who is offering them so much money to kill Spencer that they’ll kill each other for the chance?

Miss Heigl is a very attractive young woman, not least because she seems to be unaware of just how attractive she is. Her Jen is the opposite of a femme fatale: someone who intends to earn her way through life. Someone who worries that she is so happy in her marriage that her husband might be getting a little bored with her. When she confesses to having been wearing her “fat jeans” for the past few weeks, she convinces you that even knockouts have beauty problems. Without going too far in the Margaret Dumont direction, Ms Heigl knows how to make the lack of imagination funny. Jen clearly has no idea why anyone would take up espionage as a line of work, to the extent that she doesn’t really grasp why it’s dangerous. I can’t think of another actress who could have pulled off Jen’s need, at the end, for a “trust circle” with her husband and her parents, all of whom are not quite whom she thought they were. We can understand Jen’s not grasping her father’s true identity, but surely she ought to realize that her mother (the killingly funny Catherine O’Hara) can’t have a good reason for drinking Bloody Marys straight from the pitcher. Ms Heigl’s way of looking past her mother’s drinking problem is really rather sweet. What may be at work here is the revival of an old, suffragette-era charm: this actress is game. And when the game is over, she really wants to go home.

Mr Kutcher is also winning and sweet, especially as action heroes go. His fight scenes are filmed in a mercifully incoherent blur by director Robert Luketic. Some might find his way with badinage a trifle unconstructed, if you know what I mean; and I for one find heavy bangs even less attractive on men than on women. But the actor never looks out of place in this film. Not the first time, anyway.

One Response to “Friday Movies:

  1. Quatorze says:

    And I thought Tom Selleck very good as the father, especially when he drops the overbearing and controlling father/secret agent pose when his daughter calls him out during his shooting spree at his son-in-law; looking like nothing so much as a boy who has been caught being naughty, a patented Selleck maneuver and always a winning one.