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Killing Is My Business, Honey

A super-slick crowdpleaser with peachy roles for German comedian Rick Kavanian and young actress Nora Tschirner, hitman comedy-romance "Killing Is My Business, Honey" looks set to do just that at Teuton wickets.

A super-slick crowdpleaser with peachy roles for German comedian Rick Kavanian and young actress Nora Tschirner, hitman comedy-romance “Killing Is My Business, Honey” looks set to do just that at Teuton wickets. With (sadly) no proven market offshore for mainstream German comedies, an English-language remake seems the most profitable course for this “Pink Panther”-ish romp, which would translate easily to a Stateside setting. Following its world preem in Berlin Feb. 19, the film goes wide in Deutschland Feb. 26.

Kavanian is known locally as one of Michael “Bully” Herbig’s associates in a string of successful parodies (Western spoof “Manitou’s Shoe,” “Star Trek” riff “Dreamship Surprise: Period One”). Tschirner broke through bigtime as the klutzy heroine of Til Schweiger’s 2008 B.O. champ, “Rabbit Without Ears,” and again proves here she’s one of Germany’s hottest young discoveries.

The picture’s ’60s-ish, retro feel is underlined by bright, animated main titles (designed by Lutz Lemke) and a soundtrack packed with cocktail-lounge classics by Dean Martin (like “That’s Amore”). From the beginning, there’s a sense of workmanship at the highest level, from the tight script by Dirk Ahner (“7 Days to Live”) and helmer Sebastian Niemann (“Over My Dead Body”), through the glossy lensing by Gerhard Schirlo, to Matthias Muesse’s production design, recalling the Universal studio look of the late ’50s/early ’60s.

With a nifty goatee, Kavanian plays professional hitman Toni Ricardelli, who simply loves telling people about his job (“good money, flexible hours, plenty of human interface”). But big-mouth Toni just can’t find the right woman: One blind date with a beautiful blonde (TV regular Florentine Lahme) ends with her fleeing in horror.

Toni is contracted by middleman Pepe (Italian vet Bud Spencer) to ice the reclusive Enrico Puzzo (Franco Nero, hamming), a mafioso-turned-squealer whose memoirs are about to be published by a company run by Christopher Kimbel (Hans-Michael Rehberg) and his milquetoast son, Bobfried (Janek Rieke). When Enrico is a no-show at his press conference, Bobfried sends editor/g.f. Julia Steffens (Tschirner) to coax the drama queen from his Italian hideaway with a check for $500,000.

Hot on Enrico’s trail is Toni, who, in a clever piece of situational comedy, shoots Enrico only seconds before Julia arrives in the onetime mafioso’s hotel room. For Toni, it’s love (and business) at first sight: Pocketing the check, he agrees to save Julia’s job by impersonating Enrico. The only problem is that ornery Mafia boss Salvatore Marino (Guenther Kaufmann) sends a horde of other hitmen (and women) to finish the job Toni seems to have bungled.

Well-worked script keeps several subplots in the air, including Bobfried’s suspicions that Julia is dating someone else; the undeclared love of Bobfried by his secretary (Jasmin Schwiers); and the professional friendship of Toni and Bavarian hitman Helmut (Christian Tramitz, another Herbig alum). Latter thread provides the pic with one of its funniest running jokes.

Tschirner is a total delight as a low-key ditz, whether bumping into bookcases or staggering drunk through the bullet-ballet finale, while Kavanian, markedly more disciplined than in his previous Herbig outings, handles the physical and verbal comedy with equal aplomb. One sequence alone, of him dispatching hordes of assassins during a date with Tschirner, sums up the pic’s confident professionalism. Violence throughout is thoroughly cartoony.

Killing Is My Business, Honey

Germany

  • Production: A Warner Bros. Pictures Germany release of a Warner Bros. presentation of a Christian Becker/Rat Pack Filmproduktion production, in association with Warner Bros. Film Prods. Germany, BA Produktion, Babelsberg Film, Beta Film, Erfftal Film. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Munich.) Produced by Christian Becker, Klaus Dohle. Co-producers, Henning Molfenter, Christoph Fisser, Carl Woebcken, Franz Kraus, Antonio Exacoustos, Eric Welbers. Directed by Sebastian Niemann. Screenplay, Dirk Ahner, Niemann.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Gerhard Schirlo; editor, Moune Barius; music, Egon Riedel; music supervisors, Klaus Frers, Thomas Binar; production designer, Matthias Muesse; costume designer, Janne Birck; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael Hemmerling, Alexander Saal, Tschangis Chahrokh; visual effects supervisor, Stefan Tischner; casting, Emrah Ertem. Reviewed at Cinestar Potsdamer Platz 1, Berlin, Jan. 26, 2009. Running time: 109 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Rick Kavanian, Nora Tschirner, Christian Tramitz, Janek Rieke, Bud Spencer, Franco Nero, Ludger Pistor, Jasmin Schwiers, Guenther Kaufmann, Oscar Ortega Sanchez, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Matthias Zelic, Wolfgang Voelz, Wolf Roth, Lara-Isabelle Rentinck, Axel Stein, Florentine Lahme.