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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Movie review: Killers *

BY ROGER MOORE
ORLANDO SENTINAL

They could have had the meeting in the production offices of Killers or even in one star's respective trailer before that first shot from the first scene was filmed.

A simple coin toss might have settled things for co-stars Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher.

“OK, heads you're the straight man, tails you're the comic. CALL it!”

Alas, that meeting was missed, that coin never tossed. And with Kutcher, playing a CIA hit man who has fibbed to his bride about his work, seriously dialing down his trademark cute exasperation and Heigl looking weary at playing another lonely, lovelorn gorgeous woman with no self-esteem, there's nobody delivering the laughs in this arid action comedy.

Over-the-top shock? Comic horror at what your spouse is capable of? That's what you expect from a movie in which the wife suddenly discovers her husband of three years had a previous life with a license to kill. Heigl gives us a good shriek at that moment, 45 minutes in.

“I need you to go to the basement and get the duct tape,” he orders, having trashed their suburban Atlanta McMansion fighting off an attempt on his life.

But Jennifer, “Just Jen,” just sort of accepts the new status quo, though granted, she develops some pretty serious “trust issues.”

Banter? That's the Mr. and Mrs. Smith model this script (by Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin) is set to follow. Only the banter doesn't really kick in for an hour as we're treated to a dull “meet cute” scene in Nice, France, a hasty courtship, and hastier quit-my-job decision by Spencer (Kutcher) for this lovely, bland wallflower he catches on the rebound.

It's only after he's revealed to her what the audience has known since the opening credits and trashed their corner of suburbia and killed a couple of assassins sent to do him in that the happy couple finds time to bicker.

“It's me,” Spencer insists. “I just have a different resume.”

When your stars don't have much chemistry — he plays a humorless version of his all-boy, all-bangs shtick, and she's still playing the undersexed adult to man-child co-stars — the movie becomes fair game for supporting players to steal it. Tom Selleck as her gun-nut dad and Catherine O'Hara as the mother who copes with her marriage by hitting the bottle, almost do.

The violence of the various attempts on Spencer is what director Robert Luketic focused on. A decade removed from Legally Blonde, with 21, Monster-in-Law, and The Ugly Truth filling that interim, he's wisely given up on funny.

But there were still possibilities in this set-up, possibilities perhaps better realized in the similarly structured Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz farce Knight and Day, due out in just a couple of weeks. And you can't help but feel that this could have had a 50-50 chance of working, with a simple coin toss way back on that day when both stars signed on the dotted line.



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