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Review: Killing Gunther – “An entertaining, fun and chaotic film”

Taran Killam’s out-there directorial debut follows a team of professional yet seemingly ineffective assassins who group together in order to take down their common enemy – the mysterious hit man known only as Gunther. Each member of the team has their specific set of skills to bring to the table, however, like the multiple assassination attempts throughout the film, the comedy sporadically lands with impact; explosives fail to detonate, poison is ineffective, bullets just miss their intended target. In spite of these drawbacks, what remains is an entertaining, fun and chaotic film, though perhaps it could have been more effective as a succinct comedy short.

As a big British fan of the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, who eagerly awaits for each week’s sketches to be uploaded onto YouTube, as well as a fan of many of the films and television shows made by both current and ex-cast members, it was obvious Killing Gunther would feel like an easy and comfortable watch, and I wasn’t wrong. Although equally ridiculous in the events that unfold, recent films such as Office Christmas Party and Sisters have a considerable cinematic edge, in the fact that their plots feel tighter, funnier and momentum isn’t lost throughout.

One of the film’s most successful qualities lies within the decision to frame the narrative through modes of mockumentary. Though this has become a staple route for low budget comedy filmmakers, running the risk of seeming lazy through repetition, here it works somewhat well. The involvement of the camera crew in the story provides high-speed sequences with refreshing curiosity as the viewpoint weaves between each trained killer’s attempt to entrap and destroy Gunther.

This genre of comedy also allows for emotional moments to feel organically produced, as well as making threats to life feel more significant. However, at times the large “blockbuster” looking scope of the film prevents this style from reaching the comedic wonders of similar genre films such as Taika Waititi’s What We Do In The Shadows, which benefits from its contained small cast and story.

Minor spoilers ahead.

The film stars Killam himself as Blake, the leader of the killer troupe. His unfaltering enthusiasm is infectious, and his persistence to complete his goal despite ridiculous circumstances is both humorous and heartening. Other stand out characters include Killam’s fellow SNL ex-cast member Bobby Moynihan, who plays the so-called demolition expert named Donnie, who, of course, isn’t that good with explosives. Moynihan’s on-screen charisma overflows with ease but sadly is the detriment to other characters, including thinly written female characters, who are unavoidably drowned out and pale by comparison.

Killam’s own wife Cobie Smulders, who plays Lisa, Blake’s ex in the film, does all she can with the material presented to her. Through a few all too short cutaways, we learn very minimal information about her character, other than the fact she runs pottery sessions for hen parties. Sadly, her role feels much more story serving than a significant and important character, as though she’s only present as a structural support for the plot.

Gunther, who is revealed to be none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, (a shock to those few who managed to hide away from films trailers and posters). The former bodybuilder’s role is short and sweet, and adds an amusing layer to the events of the film up until his dramatic and predictable entrance. He seems to have a great time playing this role, shown by his effortless presence and charming smile, which is a welcomed change from his recent roles in Terminator Genisys and Maggie. While his scenes are great, the payoff of his arrival isn’t quite as good as you’d expect. Maybe this is down to the repetitive material beforehand, or that the audience knows his appearance is guaranteed as he’s on the poster.

Aside from the several moments where comedy stalls and you begin to sit back instead of lean in, Killing Gunther is worthy of your time. For those who are big fans of this particular brand of comedy, it is possible to look beyond the film’s weaknesses and laugh at an affectionately made film.

Killing Gunther will be available to watch on Digital Download from 2nd April and can be bought here.

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