Thursday, 9 December 2010

Neighbours bugging you? At least I'm guessing they aren't trying to kill you. That's a better deal than the one dealt in the movie Killers (dir Robert Luketich, 2010) to Jen Kornfeldt (Katherine Heigl) who, having unwittingly married a spy, Spencer Aimes (Ashton Kutcher), must cope with finding out she's pregnant at the same time as she discovers that the entire neighbourhood wants to top her husband.

It's a fairly unusual situation to end up in. Naturally, it's his fault: lying to you, hiding his shady past, generally failing on the "I can protect you" front as your longtime family friend turns out to be a contract killer and your husband appears all at sea. The whole domestic-bliss thing comes tumbling down the morning after Spencer's surprise party when Henry (Rob Riggle), waking up from a drunken slumber on the family couch in the living room, tries to off Spencer with a kitchen knife. Having exhausted the pantry, Henry chases an unhappy Spencer and a terrified Jen through the streets in his car until they end up on a building site and Spencer solves the immediate problem by ramming Henry into a construction pit where the victimiser becomes the victim, impaled on a set of reinforcing rods.

It's a comedy-thriller so there's plenty of frustrated banter in the wrecked truck as the pair negotiate their way to a supermarket to buy a pregnancy test. Jen tears strips off Spencer - Spencer's real, long-term problem - while Spencer tries to simultaneously placate his furious wife and guard himself against unexpected attack from every conceivable direction. There's a lot of humour in these scenes. At this point there's also a quantity of suspence mixed with the banter. Where to go from here? First Spencer must find out what happened to his old boss, who has contacted him after three years of silence during which Spencer thought that he had outrun his old life and forged a new one with Jen. The guy's in his hotel room, shot dead. At this point the familiar faces multiply as does the number of guns being used against the two. Jen knuckles down and quickly learns how to shoot.

Kutcher plays a solid comic line, adopting the persona of the henpecked husband trying to get his wife to ease off on the tongue-lashing but it's Heigl who owns this film. From the outset, during scenes where Jen falls in love with the hunky Spencer, she is refreshingly candid, normal even. She's you. She's that girl over there. She's everywoman. It's a movie for the girls from the start: a mysterious, attractive man appears out of nowhere in a hotel lift on the French Riviera, you find a dress that's too tight for you but which you chose from the rack to impress him, you drink an excessive quantity of champagne and it sends you to sleep. There's a ton of the routine paranoid paraphernalia of dating to squeeze into the early scenes of the film. Will she get the guy? Does he care that she fell asleep when he was talking to her? Will he be fazed by the fact that her mother is a lush? Does he care that she can't speak French?

Cut to the domestic idyll. It's a new subdivision and the house is handsome: neat and respectable, it nestles among a row of similar structures. Your husband's job is going fine. Your parents like him. You are doing well at your job. There are some annoyances during the party, such as the neighbour who touches your husband flirtatiously and of course there's the other one who always runs after you as you're driving your car down the street, talking at you non-stop through the driver's-side window. But all-in-all it's a happy life of domestic pleasures that easily aligns with your ultimate goal of starting a family. Then Henry starts trying to kill your husband. Then you get mad. Spencer lied to you and all of a sudden your solid, predictable life is in ruins and you're looking for someone to blame, and he's right next to you.

For all her conventional failings, Jen is firmly in charge of this movie and her rules will finally triumph over the forces of chaos that were unleashed when Henry came into the kitchen and grabbed a weapon from the bench. Jen's down-to-earth, funny, irrepressible femininity will conquer every adverse situation that comes before it. This film is, without doubt, one for the girls. And the guys will enjoy the car chases, martial arts, machine guns, and sudden explosions: everything, in other words, that is designed to thwart Jen's desires.

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