Movie review: ‘Killers’

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Hoping for something swift and painless is one thing if you’re the target of an assassination. It’s a futile wish, though, when you’re subjected to the death that is the Ashton Kutcher- Katherine Heigl vehicle “Killers.”

Is it some monstrosity of awfulness, as its lack of advance screening suggested? No, that would imply at least a spark of some kind. This is just an empty summer hodgepodge of stale romantic comedy exchanges, witlessness and lackluster action.

It’s a movie that starts in sun-kissed Nice, France, and segues to faceless American suburbs, to give you an idea of its metaphorical trajectory. Nice is where neurotic dumpee Jen (Heigl) is licking her wounds from a bad breakup, accompanied by her overprotective parents ( Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara). Spencer (Kutcher) is there to off someone for the CIA.

Spencer’s mopey face tells us he doesn’t really like killing. Jen, talking to her tightly packed-in breasts (“Stay put!”), tells us she’s into Spencer. (Heigl’s breasts — ogled, self-grabbed, discussed, pointed to — are practically a third character.) Jen and Spence marry, he gives up government work — his past still a secret to his bride — and three years later, they are the denizens of manicured-lawn, wacky co-workers and wackier neighbors, until one of their inner circle tries to kill Spencer. Then another. It seems there’s a $20-million bounty on his head and, regrettably, where this movie’s concerned, an endless bounty of tired who’s-an-assassin-now sequences, none of them surprising, exciting or funny.

“Killers,” whose screenplay is credited to Bob DeRosa and Ted Griffin, is the kind of high-concept mush that’s an uphill climb for any director. But Robert Luketic is content to choose slick over funny at every turn, seemingly oblivious to the lack of chemistry between his leads. Kutcher’s and Heigl’s cutesy bickering has all the appeal of multimillionaire movie stars grousing over contract perks, and when Jen’s possible pregnancy emerges, the lame jokes it inspires serves as a sad reminder of how promising Heigl’s career seemed when she lighted up the screen as a mom-to-be in “Knocked Up.”

Only Selleck turns his gruff papa into a source of wryness, earning a better laugh percentage than anyone else, even, surprisingly, O’Hara, who’s saddled with a one-note alcoholic-mom role. As she pours drink after drink, laughing doesn’t come to mind so much as envy.