Can we put a moratorium on mockumentaries for a while? This is Spinal Tap and The Rutles are classics and they helped jumpstart a genre. Although, with shows like The Office, Modern Family, and even the short run reboot of The Muppets, the style is oversaturated, to say the least.
With that tiny rant out of the way allow me to introduce the mockumentary, Killing Gunther. This film is about a group of eccentric assassins who rally together to try to kill a legendary hitman named Gunther. The movie is the directorial debut of Saturday Night Live alum, Taran Killam who also stars as the leader of the assassins.
There is a large a cast of players and many of them are obviously friends of Killam. Fellow SNL alum, Bobby Moynihan plays the explosive expert, and even Killam’s wife Cobie Smoulders plays the lead’s forlorn ex-girlfriend. There is one other famous actor who shows up quite late in the film. It is treated as a reveal but he is prevalent in all of the marketing and even the trailer. He is also listed as executive producer so there was probably a conflict between the script and the marketing. Let’s just say he is a famous 80’s action star and he is not Sylvester Stallone. Aside from the main cast, the supporting roles are filled with some comedic actors who seem familiar from other projects.
With a collection of funny people but first time directed by an SNL alum, it is a gamble of whether or not the final product will produce humor. Simply put, it is funny but just not hilarious. The model here is to fire as many jokes as possible and the result is that every fifth one is fairly funny. Most of the laughs come from the side characters. Every so often someone will randomly say or do something which garners anywhere between a chuckle to a full belly laugh.
There are two personal favorites and they are the poison expert played by Aaron Yoo and the father of one of the female assassins played by Peter Kelamis. They both had some ongoing jokes that garnered some good laughs and ended in great payoffs. I really don’t want to spoil them because the humor does stem from surprise. Other than them, the rest of the characters never really stack up. Everyone gives their all but they’re one-note jokes just hardly ever hit.
This issue points to a larger one and that is the writing. To be fair, the Killam wrote a very solid script with plenty of good points. There are setups and payoffs, interesting twists, and a nice plot progression. In the end, it just felt mediocre and the main character played by Killam is just plain annoying. To be fair, characters do not always have to be likable but for a comedy that spends a large portion of the time on him, it gets grating.
In the beginning, I went on a mini-rant against the mockumentary genre and so yes that skews my view a bit. However, I have to admit that in this case I will eat some crow and acknowledge the mockumentary aspect did work. There are some well-done camera and editing techniques that are enjoyable and elevate otherwise mediocre action scenes. There is also a great humorous payoff towards the latter half of the film that plays up the mockumentary aspect. It ties into the reveal, so again, I won’t spoil it.
Killing Gunther is an admirable effort that delivers on some true laughs and utilizes the mockumentary aspect pretty well. Unfortunately, even with a humorous cast and interesting premise, it never really rises to true hilarity.
Note: I recommend not seeing the trailer because some of the more funnier moments get spoiled.
Killing Gunther is being released by Saban Films and will be coming to the Galaxy Highland and to on-demand on October 20, 2017.