Killing Gunther is a comedy set in the world of contract killers. A group of young, raw, and undisciplined assassins hire a docu-crew at gunpoint to have undeniable proof that they're the ones who will kill the most infamous hit man of all time, Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger). But Gunther is on to them before they know it and makes their lives a living hell, turning the hunters into the prey in a kill-or-be-killed race against time.
Killing Gunther is about a group of bumbling hitmen who team up to kill the best hitman of all time: Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Seems like a simple premise that is perfect for an aging actor like Arnold to play off of the name that he has made for himself and put a comedic, but clever, spin on it. Taran Killam plays Blake, the supposed “brains” of the operation. He also is the only person in this ragtag crew of killers who has personal stakes here: Gunther stole his main squeeze, Lisa (Colbie Smulders) and he wants her back! There is a whole slew of killers that team up with Blake for seemingly no reason at all, with the exception of Hanna Simone’s Sanaa (who is the true brain and only real threat in the operation); they are just there to look incompetent.
Which brings me to my first problem with Killing Gunther. None of these “Killers” have a shred of credibility, due to the buffoonish way they come across. This is largely due to the style of filmmaking that they are going for here. In a series of odd choices, they have chosen to shoot this whole movie documentary style, but with a quirky comedic spin on every scene. Think The Office but with contract killers. But the comedy in The Office was largely improv, and they had skilled improv comedians like Steve Carell, and it comes across as sharp self-referential comedy. Killing Gunther is actually scripted comedy that is meant to come across as improv, but nobody has the chops to actually pull it off. Everything comes across as being incredibly forced humor, that in truth is not at all funny. And who is this comedy supposed to relate to? Many people work in office settings, and have a boss that partly reminds them of Steve Carell, so I get that. How many contract killers out there are going to watch this movie?
It is rare that I see a movie like Killing Gunther that fails on almost every level. The “sharp” comedy doesn’t work. The documentary style makes no sense, and is obviously a gimmick that holds no artistic merit. Absolutely no one is believable as a human being, let alone a serial killer. They can’t even get Arnold right. You don’t cast him and keep him locked up in a house somewhere only to show him at the last possible minute. Killing Gunther is the equivalent of a person who runs a race, trips over the first hurdle, and is out for the rest of the race. You don’t want to be that guy, and you don’t want to watch Killing Gunther.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Killing Gunther hits Blu-ray with a standard slipcover over hardcover casing. Enclosed lies a BD-25 Blu-ray with an Ultraviolet Digital HD Download. We are presented with a whole slew of skippable theatrical trailers before we are brought to a still image main menu that lets us navigate from there.
Killing Gunther won’t kill your television set with its 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that is very much what you would expect from the genre. Framed at a 1:85.1 aspect ratio, anyone who gets a little queasy with shaky cam material beware. This is a jittery, oftentimes disorientating affair. With that being said this has a warmer color palette than most mocumentaries go, feeling a tad more vibrant and colorful. There is also a fair amount of detail here, with every bit of every explosion being sharp and detailed.
Two pet peeves of mine that this film does deliver on is CGI blood and guts, and unnecessary handiecam scenarios that are only used to create a false sense of style. Every gunshot wound, explosion, or any action scene for that matter seems to be full of fake CGI. And the documentary style handiecam mess is just a desperate ploy to seem original. None of this is offensively bad to me, but at the same time, it isn’t great either. This transfer firmly falls in the moderate category where it belongs.
Killing Gunther sets its sights on Blu-ray and just grazes it with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that feels less than the sum of its parts. One thing that I have a beef with when it comes to found footage, first-person POV style of filmmaking is it comes across as kind of an excuse to have lackluster audio. Because "Hey, it all takes place in our camera. So, we all hear in camera audio". This mix definitely has a good deal of speaker separation, with decent frequency levels, but nothing here ever excited me. How are the surround channels? Mehh. How's the bass response? Mehh. How is the overall level of volume? Meeehh. There's a whole lot of meh here that leaves me a little cold. And even though I can say this is a good track with strong bones, absolutely nothing here is great. I pride myself on not celebrating mediocrity, and since this track is mediocre, I find myself in the difficult position of giving this a mediocre grade.
Bloopers (HD 5:49) - Your typical off the cuff bloopers that you would expect from a production like this.
Deleted Scenes (HD 2:13) - Two deleted scenes that serve the comedy and not the narrative.
Killing Gunther is a harmless film that is perfectly digestible for a Friday night impulse watch, but drove me absolutely insane. It wants to be so hilarious, so clever with its mockumentary style, and falls flat on its face. The presentation here is fine, but any Arnold fan who wanted to see a clever spin on his usual role should skip this and watch Commando one more time.