PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 September, 2010, 12:00am

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Catherine O'Hara, Tom Selleck
Director: Robert Luketic
Category: IIB

Sometimes the meet-cute says it all about a romantic comedy's quality, and the one in Killers doesn't bode well: when the two leads meet in a lift, CIA operative Spencer (Ashton Kutcher) is half-naked with his biceps and six-pack shown in their finest glory, while recently heartbroken executive Jen (Katherine Heigl, above with Kutcher) is chewing on her heartburn pills in a most exaggerated manner. While he speaks with wit and grace, she stumbles even in telling him her name, ending her rambling by saying she'll now go 'and marinade in shame'.

Director Robert Luketic and his cast should, indeed, go in shame, as this encounter embodies the relentless gender and genre cliches one finds in action comedies about women flapping helplessly as they are sucked into the dangerous world their hunky, handsome partners flourish in.

Devoid of even the elan or energy that drives the already flawed Knight and Day, Killers works neither as a high-octane thriller nor a farcical gag machine. That there's minimal chemistry between Kutcher and Heigl - who's going from bad to worse in her performances as a shrieking shrew - only serves to further undermine the film.

The story is about Jen's slow discovery of her husband's real vocation when his dark past returns to haunt him after his former supervisor contacts him again. This leads to the couple's escape from their American suburban life.

Killers did have the potential to be something more unconventional. But Luketic elected to play down the possibilities in the couple discovering new selves. Spencer's odd signs of emotional fragility - as shown by his hesitancy in telling Jen his body-count - and his seemingly genuine desire to settle down to an ordinary life ('I depend on her, not the other way round,' he tells Jen's stoic father, played by Tom Selleck) are given short shrift. Jen's expertise in computer programming never leads to anything beyond the one sole occasion of her accessing a suspicious laptop.

Instead, the film remains firmly rooted in Spencer's stunts and Jen's tomfoolery - when he's out there killing enemies, she's in the toilet fretting over a pregnancy test. Add to that Jen's equally one-note parents - Selleck's protective father could have come straight out of Meet the Parents, and Catherine O'Hara spends most of her screen time being ditzy and dizzy with drink - and Killers ends up more dead than alive.

Killers opens today