You could do far worse at the multiplex this weekend than Killers, a modestly pitched rom-com actioner that outdoes most of the competition on compulsive watchability alone. Ashton Kutcher is Spencer, a covert assassin who longs for a normal existence while also doubting the moral worth of his profession; Katherine Heigl is Jen, a prototypical upper-middle-class worker bee who falls head over heels for Spencer and his “physical Godlike perfection,” a turn of events that convinces Spencer to leave his organization and put down roots with his newfound better half. Three years later, things are continuing swimmingly when a violent past catches up with the happy couple. Refusing a mission assignment from his old boss, Spencer quickly finds himself the target of a massive, eight-digit bounty, the ensuing trail of violence forcing him to come clean with his beloved regarding his past self.
Much like director Robert Luketic’s previous films (the passable Legally Blonde, the odiously dull 21, among others), Killers is paint-by-numbers filmmaking scrubbed clean of even the faintest puff of creativity, here making for an unfortunately banal foundation, but one nevertheless elevated, somewhat amazingly, by the sharp comedic rapport and genuine chemistry of its leads. Laughs are played not for the shrill effect of insincere parody (a la The Proposal, to name one recent offender), but for the common mishaps and foibles that define our lives, an understated approach that lends a certain quotidian legitimacy to the otherwise outlandish proceedings (Heigl is darling while attempting to wield a gun with the safety on).
Suggesting an inverted, watered-down History of Violence template, Killers is borderline thoughtful in its consideration of how we define ourselves in the present despite the past, and there’s something to be said for the unflinching manner in which it doles out death to those who risk it in the name of easy financial gain. That said, the pleasantly surprising success of the cast only translates so far, as Killers routinely struggles in its genre juggling act whenever not focusing on the couple in immediate peril. Hardly a misfire, it’s still a movie only half as entertaining as it could have been.