He doesn’t project the rough-hewn manliness of a Russell Crowe, or the pure prettiness of a Brad Pitt, or the boyish appeal of a Taylor Lautner. But he’s got this aw-shucks grin and this mischievous look and glimmer in the eye, all of which catch the eye of Katherine Heigl. The former “Gray’s Anatomy” star doesn’t have the chiseled, bony good looks of a skinny model like Angelina Jolie, nor does she project the girl-next-door cuteness of a Jennifer Anniston, or even a Sandra Bullock, whose looks are enough to turn heads, but not move mountains. Kutcher and Heigl have just the right looks for the parts in this film: with the glamour toned down, they can pass for the nice young couple living right down the street.
But there’s more here than meets the eye.
Heigl plays Jen, a young career woman taking a vacation to Nice, France, with her parents. That tells you something right there. Her boyfriend has just dumped her, and she really doesn’t have anything better to do than to just accept their invitation. She immediately senses that this wasn’t such a good idea, as her parents can’t quit treating her like a high schooler in their care, and they have their own issues, anyway. However, things brighten up considerably when she meets Spencer (Kutcher), and she falls for him immediately, doing that bumbling-nervous thing with a fair amount of believability. But there’s more to Spencer than just a young expatriate speaking the language like a native and zipping around in a fancy sports car. He’s actually a paid assassin for the U.S. government, on assignment in France. But he’s longed for the simple, normal, suburban American life he’s never had, and sees in Jen a perfect partner for his quick exit from the dark, deceitful life he has chosen for himself.
Fast-forward three years, and it is indeed the house in the suburbs (although still a little painfully close to her Mom and Dad), and block parties, and barbeques in the back yard, and off to work every day and hoping to start a family. But Spencer was not in the kind of profession that you just walk away from. His past catches up to him, and, inevitably, Jen finds out.
She’s furious, of course, that he can lie so effectively, which makes her question anything he’s ever said. He claims he tried to tell her, but realized later she’d fallen asleep, and decided it wouldn’t help anything, anyway. But they don’t have much time for recriminations. Now everybody they ever knew is coming after them, and they literally can’t tell friend from foe. It seems the “contract” on him is like a bounty that anyone can collect, from the FedEx delivery guy to the nosy neighbor next door.
And that’s when the movie rocks back and forth on these parallel tracks, romantic comedy to action adventure. Jen and Spencer both have guns now, and know how to use them — chase scenes and car crashes and explosions and hand-to-hand combat. All with a straight face, as if seemingly ordinary, respectable-looking people suddenly start playing for blood.
It’s a strange kind of mood to sustain, and the viewer is suddenly uncertain whether this is adventure or comedy or some oil-and-vinegar mixture of the two. In a loose-fitting kind of way, it works, just because of the unique personas of the two stars: as long as you don’t think too much about it, or how well the story holds together. This is one of those popcorn movies where you just enjoy the light fare and call it entertainment, and leave your disbelief suspended at the popcorn stand.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.