Killers: Just shoot me now

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By Matt Brunson

KILLERS

DIRECTED BY Robert Luketic

STARS Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher

Just how wretched an actress is Katherine Heigl? Ashton Kutcher, her co-star in Killers, has delivered his own share of poor performances (most recently in Valentine's Day), yet whenever he's asked to share a scene with Heigl, he comes across like Laurence Olivier by comparison. Heck, he looks like any of the giants of cinema: As he interacts with the hopelessly inept Heigl, you feel as if you're watching the rebirth of Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire or De Niro in Raging Bull.

OK, so I'm getting a bit carried away, and, truth be told, remove Heigl from the equation and it's evident that Kutcher also has trouble keeping his head above water. In Killers, he's asked to play a seasoned CIA assassin, which is only slightly more believable than witnessing Miley Cyrus portray Scarlett O'Hara or David Spade tackle General Douglas MacArthur. His character, Spencer Aimes, is tired of his bloody lot in life, though, and he desires nothing more than a bland, safe existence. So after he meets the sheltered Jen Kornfeldt (Heigl), who's vacationing on the French Riviera with her parents (Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara) after recently being dumped by her boyfriend (smart fellow!), he quits the hitman biz and marries her, never bothering to tell her about his dubious profession. Cut to three years later, where we find the pair living in petrified suburban bliss — that is, until Spencer's past comes back with a vengeance. Suddenly, the 'burbs become a battlefield, as Spencer must figure out which of his longtime neighbors are legit and which are trained killers out for his blood.

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The idea of a suburban setting as a front for illicit activity is a fairly original one (although an episode of Alias did tackle it a few years ago), and in the proper hands, this might have made for a sharp satire. But in this case, everyone blows their assignment. The ham-fisted direction is by Robert Luketic, who previously teamed with Heigl on the worst film of 2009, The Ugly Truth. The forced banter between the stars comes courtesy of scripters Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin, who apparently never met a dreadful line of dialogue they didn't like. Yet reserve the main brickbats for Heigl, who once again uses variations on her single, solitary, thespian expression (wide-eyed wonder) to play the only role she ever tackles in movies: the annoying, neurotic pill whose ill-placed air of superiority can't disguise the fact that she's an intolerant nincompoop. While independent, intelligent actresses like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and even Angelina Jolie try to elevate the status of women in what's largely become a male-dominated industry, it's disheartening to see Heigl doing her damnedest to keep her gender hunched over the cinematic equivalent of that kitchen stove.

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