Preposterously stupid and fairly enjoyable, “Killing Gunther” is a mockumentary hitman spoof in which a gaggle of eccentric professional assassins attempt to knock off the world’s top paid killer, Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Lest Arnold fans — there have to be some left, right? — get too excited, it needs pointing out that he doesn’t really show up until the final third of the film (although then he gets a lot of play). Instead the movie focuses on writer-director-star (and SNL vet) Taran Killam, playing Blake, a hitman who hires a documentary crew to follow his efforts to kill Gunther.
Blake is secretly pining for his ex, Lisa (Cobie Smulders, Killam’s real-life wife), a retired hitwoman who left him for — who else? — Gunther. So this is revenge disguised as ambition, although mostly it’s just silliness. Blake recruits fellow assassins Magnificent Seven-style to help him get Gunther, although nobody’s particularly magnificent and it’s hard to see what they’re getting out of this.
There’s Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), who likes to blow things up; Yong (Aaron Yoo) who throws poison at people (it’s not a very effective technique); Sanaa (Hannah Simone) a trained terrorist; and so forth. A couple of mad Russian twins, Max (Steve Bacic) and Mia (the wonderful Allison Tolman) offer cultural contrast.
Killam can’t go very long without blowing something up, shedding blood or letting one of his characters expire, nor should he. This is rat-a-tat comic stuff and introspective pauses — however broadly cheesy — just weigh things down. With this in mind, he might have wanted to introduce the actual Gunther a bit sooner — Schwarzenegger does liven things up just because he’s Schwarzenegger.
But hey, this is a mockumentary hitman spoof, so no one’s expecting Spielbergian precision. All anybody’s expecting is rapid-fire absurdities and Three Stooges violence, which Killam serves up aplenty. “Killing Gunther” isn’t dead on, but it certainly isn’t DOA either.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
Rated R for violence, language and some sexual material
Running time: 92 minutes