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Film / Killing Gunther

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"If you wanna be king, you gotta kill the king."

"I'm kind of like a Gunther superfan. I'm obsessed with him. He's the greatest hitman ever. Everyone knows who he is, but no one does...I'm just excited to meet him; just walk up and shake his hand. And then, y'know, watch everyone...kill him."

So there's this Professional Killer. He's the best of the best and has what could pass for a code of honour. Some would say that he's the boogieman of the criminal underworld. At some point, he crosses the wrong people or stumbles on one conspiracy too many or maybe he hasn't really done anything to prompt it, but at some point, he earns the murderous interests of his fellow hitmen. A Carnival of Killers descends upon our Noble Demon and he must use all his skills, cunning, and grit to overcome his exotic pursuers.

The fellow here is named Gunther and he is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is not quite his story. This is a movie about those who want him dead.

These include:

  • Blake Hammon (Taran Killam), a neurotic, but ultimately reliable yuppie-esque killer.
  • Donald "Boom Boom" Piznowski (Bobby Moynihan), the Demolitions Expert, who originally worked as a miner before masterminding the death of an annoying coworker gave him a taste for blowing people up.
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  • Sanaa Fairouza (Hannah Simone), the daughter of legendary mercenary Rahmat "The Nightmare" Fairouza, who longs to be respected for her own merits and move out of her father's shadow, which proves challenging because he's her biggest and most obnoxious fan.
  • Gabe "The Human Computer" Beales (Paul Brittain), a hacker who has recently become a tech-ops and intel freelancer for criminals because it pays handsomely although he has never personally killed anyone.
  • Ashley (Aubrey Sixto), the centenarian mentor and Parental Substitute of Blake (among other assassins).
  • Izzat "Crusher" Bukhari (Amir Talai), a Hollywood Cyborg who used to be an Islamic extremist until he struck out on his own after being maimed in a suicide bomb accident (it wasn't his; he was helping someone put it on when it misfired). He has since replaced his lost limb with a powerful, but glitchy, high-tech prosthetic.
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  • Pak Yong Qi (Aaron Yoo), a haemophobic Agent Peacock who primarily works with toxins and acids as he believes them to be "more elegant" and "sophisticated" than other means of homicide.
  • Mia & Barold Bellakalakova (Allison Tolman & Ryan Gaul), a twin hitman team from Southern Russia who are feared and reviled by their peers for killing 14,000 people in pursuit of a mark by setting a sports stadium on fire.

Each member of the team has their own reasons for pursuing Gunther. Some petty, some professional, and some personal, but they're enough to make them work together so they can hunt him across the globe. Oh, and they've hired amateur filmmakers Nate and Kimmy to make a documentary of the whole scheme, and they're not allowed to leave until they either succeed at killing Gunther or die trying.

This film features examples of:

  • Action Girl: Sanaa, Lisa, and Mia.

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Gunther has deep personal ties with both California and Austria, but not quite to the extent or nature as Schwarzenegger's.
    • During his brief time onscreen, Max mentions an associate called Stjepan Bačić - the correct Croatian rendering of actor Steve Bacic's name.

  • Affably Evil: Gunther. He's the world's best assassin and proud of it. He's a pretty nice guy to be around, as long as you're not trying to kill him or you're his target.

  • Affectionate Parody: Gunther is a Composite Character who has traits of Schwarzenegger's roles from Predator, The Running Man, and The Terminator to name a few.

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Rahmat, who is Sanaa's self-proclaimed #1 fan and has spent most of his retirement smothering her with affection whenever she's in reach. At the end of the movie, she's quite glad that her daughter has divided Rahmat's parental focus somewhat.

  • Antagonist Title: Gunther's the guy everyone's trying to kill. That pretty much covers it.

  • Anyone Can Die: Of the nine assassins assembled, only Donnie and Sanaa survive with even Nate and Kimmy perishing in an explosion after helping Blake (unsuccessfully) kill Gunther.

  • Apocalyptic Log: The documentary steadily transforms from being about killing Gunther to the mortally unsuccessful attempts to do so.

  • Asshole Victim: The cast chiefly consists of remorseless criminals, many of whom are responsible for grotesque amounts of collateral damage so it's easy to laugh at their misfortunes and even their lethal failures.

  • Awesome, but Impractical: Yong carries his poisons in his coat via a series of vials. Unfortunately, while deadly, they're useless in a straightforward firefight where he can do little but impotently lob them (and not very far) in the direction of the enemy.

  • Bittersweet Ending: Ultimately Donnie and Sanaa retire and have a happy, normal life raising their daughter Ava, with Rahmat coming to accept Donnie and being a loving grandfather. But Blake can't give up his obsession with killing Gunther, which destroys his relationships with the others and gets him killed.

  • The Cast Showoff: Invoked and parodied with Gunther singing "Earthquake Love" over the credits.

  • Crazy Jealous Guy: After he alienated his girlfriend Lisa to the point that she broke up with him, Blake became dead set on murdering her rebound guy, even after Lisa left him as well. Unfortunately for Blake, it turned out to be Gunther.

  • Dreadful Musician: Gunther as Cord Billmont though he claims to be emulating George Strait.

  • Dwindling Party: Blake's crew is picked off piece by piece as each encounter with Gunther ends in disaster.

  • Ethnic Scrappy: In-universe, Cheyenne is a Paper Tiger, white trash, black market Arms Dealer whose bad jokes, clinginess, and Patriotic Fervor (most of the crew isn't from the USA) swiftly annoy the protagonists into buying from and leaving his store as quickly as possible. He's actually Gunther in disguise.

  • Klingon Promotion: Sanaa and Izzat want to kill Gunther because of the prestige it would earn their burgeoning careers as contract killers. This is ostensibly Blake's motivation as well, but it really isn't.

  • Last Chance to Quit: Having grown strangely fond of the crew and wanting a "happy ending" for his documentary, Gunther offers them a chance to let bygones be bygones so long as they retire from being assassins and leave his home immediately. Donnie and Sanaa take it but Blake declines.

  • Master of Disguise: Gunther. So much so that the opening sequence of the movie is about how no one is quite sure how he looks like with even his gender being in question.

  • Mockumentary: The film is set up as a documentary tracking Blake and his crew's attempts at killing Gunther. Later, it's revealed that Gunther commissioned his own documentary to tell his side of the story and the two documentary crews capture each other on camera.

  • Mook Horror Show: Roughly half the movie is in service of stressing how terrifying the apparently outnumbered and outgunned hitman would be to those trying to kill him when he ultimately turns the tables.

  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's promotion makes it seem as if Gunther is a major on-screen presence. While the film certainly revolves around the character, he only appears in-person very late into the running time.

  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Gunther briefly defuses a climactic Mexican Standoff by offering what's left of the team some of his cappuccinos which, in his own words, are "to die for."

  • Once More, with Clarity!: Once Gunther is properly introduced, he reveals that he'd hired his own documentary film crew and the audience gets to see a recap of the movie up to that point from Gunther's perspective.

  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Most of the disguises in the film besides Izzat's and Yong's are rather poor (at one point, while masquerading as a woman, Donnie doesn't even bother shaving his beard or taking off his trademark hat). This also applies to Gunther's last disguise shown onscreen in contrast to his usual Latex Perfection.

  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Bellakalakovas were lured into helping Blake after he promised them he'd take them to Disneyland and introduce them to Hollywood stars in Los Angeles.

  • Retired Monster: Those hitmen fortunate enough to retire rarely do so out of any sense of guilt or morality. Them doing so because they've become bored, craven, or otherwise disenchanted due to unrelated personal problems is more common.

  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The Bellakalakova Twins are subject to the most humiliating demise in the film, having been poisoned and then having their corpses posed in such a way that they're groping one another in an incestous fashion.

  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Blake, Ashley, and Yong have great personal emnity towards Gunther to varying degrees. Gunther himself rats Blake out to the FBI after he and his team kill two of his employees.

  • Running Gag: Several. For obvious reasons, they tend to stop once the chief person involved with the gag dies.
    • Ashley's heart attacks.
    • Izzat's arm running out of power and clenching up as a result.
    • Yong vomiting at the sight of blood.
    • Gabe ruining Blake's interview segments with a Funny Background Event
    • Rahmat chasing Donnie with a scimitar after he finds out about his tryst with Sanaa.

  • Sacrificial Lamb: Mark Palane, a fellow apprentice of Ashley who is murdered in front of the team by Gunther very early in the movie before he can tell them where his hideout is.

  • Shipper on Deck: Subverted twice. First, Gunther tries to manipulate Blake, Lisa, Donnie, and Sanaa into giving up peacefully by exploiting the romantic fondness they have for one another. Only Donnie and Sanaa take him up on it. Secondly, he decides to get back at Blake and Lisa for indirectly having his Mammoth, California home seized by the police via using one of his disguises to set up the latter with a man called David who she eventually marries with the implication that he will wind up being a poor husband.

  • The End... Or Is It?: Gunther is revealed to have somehow escaped death despite having been blown up in an enormous fireball.