Arnold Schwarzenegger hams it up with ‘SNL’ alum in ‘Killing Gunther’

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Blake (Taran Killam, right) tries to kill the world’s best hitman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in “Killing Gunther.” | SABAN FILMS/LIONSGATE

It’s too bad there’s not more Gunther in “Killing Gunther,” but given Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing the Gunther everyone is trying to kill, it’s worth the wait.

In the meantime, we get an energetic, reasonably amusing, hit-and-miss action comedy from writer-director (and “SNL” alum) Taran Killam, who also gives a casually funny performance in the lead role.

Killam plays Blake, a contract hitman who puts together “an unstoppable team” of assassins in an effort to eliminate the baddest hitman of them all: one Rob “Gunther” Bendik (Schwarzenegger).

Why get rid of Gunther? Well, what better way to burnish one’s reputation as a hitman than to eliminate the most legendary of ’em all? Not to mention there will be more work for everyone if Gunther isn’t around to lap up so many assignments. And if Blake’s team eliminates Gunther, Blake will become the guy, because he’ll be the guy that killed the guy, right?

But why would assassins agree to be filmed, seeing as how they’re, you know, trained killers? These are the kinds of questions you have to set aside if you’re going to appreciate “Killing Gunther.”

The conceit — and it’s hardly a fresh one — is that Blake hires a documentary crew to shadow the killers so there will be irrefutable evidence if/when they track down Gunther and erase him from the face of the Earth.

Each member of the colorful comedic team (not that they think of themselves as funny) has a particular set of skills. The group includes:

• Donald “Donnie” Piznowski, an explosives expert of sorts played by the very funny Bobby Moynihan (another former “SNL” cast member).

• Mia and Barold Bellakalakova (Allison Tolman from the first season of the FX series “Fargo” and Ryan Gaul, respectively), who are Russian and twins and assassins.

• Sanaa “Little Nightmare” Fariouza (Hannah Simone), a beautiful and extremely lethal Iranian sniper whose first professional kill was at the age of 8. She was trained by her helicopter dad, who wears a T-shirt proclaiming himself “Sanaa’s #1 fan” and cheers like an obnoxious Soccer Dad when his daughter scores a direct hit.

(Yes, it’s an incredibly tasteless and offensive premise, and if you’re not amused by such dark humor, you aren’t going to dig “Killing Gunther.”)

• Aaron Yoo’s Yong, whose specialty is poison.

• Izzat aka “The Crusher” (Amir Talai), who has an oversized cyborg arm that would be the envy of Arnold’s Terminator.

Together, they’re not exactly the A-Team. Maybe the B-movie team?

“Killing Gunther” is filled with explosive action. As a director, Killam displays a veteran’s knack for shooting the shootouts and fisticuffs, nearly all of it carried out in slapstick, nearly “Three Stooges”-level comedic fashion.

Arnold’s Gunther doesn’t appear until deep in the story — but he arrives just in the nick of time, as the humor well was running pretty dry right about then. Schwarzenegger has a great time hamming it up, and we have almost as much fun watching him have fun.


Saban Films and Lionsgate present a film written and directed by Taran Killam. Rated R (for violence, language and some sexual material). Running time: 92 minutes. Opens Friday at AMC Galewood and on demand.

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