Killing Gunther Review

The Plot

An assassin assembles a madcap team of killers with the purpose of taking out the world’s most elusive and notorious hitman ‘Gunther’, allowing him to take his place as the world’s best killer and settle a personal score in the process. In order to ensure they have proof of their accomplishment the team force a documentary crew to follow them at all times. But things don’t quite go to plan as the cameras keep rolling.

The Good

Killing Gunther follows the well-established mockumentary template, following a team of delusional and inept killers on an increasingly disastrous series of misadventures. While much of what happens is equally predicable and silly, there’s certainly no lack of screwball enthusiasm from the cast.

Writer, director and leading man Taram Killam clearly has passion for the project. His performance as chain smoking hitman Blake lurches violently between cool guy swagger and pathetic, with fairly amusing consequence. The film is populated by a fairly familiar host of villainous assassins with an eager cast doing their best to work frequent laughs out of their murderous misfortunes.

If you enjoyed John Cusack and Dan Aykroyd’s 90’s hitman caper Grosse Pointe Blank then it’s a fairly good indicator that you’ll enjoy the silly macabre tone of Killing Gunther. It’s easy to see how Killam’s emotionally fragile smartly dressed hitman, pining over his ex-girlfriend while doing battle with rival killers may well have been directly inspired by Cusack’s memorable performance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the kind of iconic big screen star that can elevate any film instantly into something far more entertaining and fun than it really has any right to be. While his recent work has veered in more serious and subtle directions since his return to acting, fans will welcome seeing him cut loose in a bonkers comedy role for a change. Whether he’s butchering country and western music or shamelessly parading famous one liners and silly outfits,  he’s clearly having plenty of fun. Even if it is mostly at his own expense.

The Bad

Arnold Schwarzenegger fans may feel disappointed that while the action megastar does play the titular ‘Gunther’, his actual presence on screen is limited to such an extent that it almost amounts to just an ‘extended cameo’. In addition to being noticeably brief it’s also arguably one of Schwarzenegger’s most unashamedly silly performances, quite a feat in a career that has included playing a pregnant man. While some will enjoy this performance as self-aware comedy gold others might make the case it’s just authentically awful. Either way it’s certainly not the triumphant action hero return many fans are forlornly yearning for.

Aside from Schwarzenegger’s odd turn the film goes through the motions of a fairly generic mockumentary. By now audiences may be a little overly familiar with the predictable punchlines and the film never rises to the high standards of memorable cult classics like Spinal Tap or Drop Dead Gorgeous. The film lacks the quotable genius and quirky originality of those films, even if it does have more splashes of action mayhem.

The Ugly Truth

Killing Gunther should appeal to fans of screwball black comedy and dedicated Arnie addicts. Schwarzenegger’s unashamedly self-deprecating turn and healthy bursts of black comedy keep this cinematic oddity watchable. An undeniably acquired taste with an evidently modest budget, Killing Gunther is the epitome of quirky cult filmmaking.

Review by Russell Nelson

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