The Bounty Hunter (2010)

NO STARS

I admit I did not want to see The Bounty Hunter. In fact, I traveled to the theater specifically to see another film advertised to start at the same time. Alas, it was cancelled or incorrectly advertised, so I was faced with The Bounty Hunter. I can assure you I will write a sharply worded complaint to the management, and possibly also to Google Movies.

The Bounty Hunter stars Jennifer Aniston as Nicole Hurley, a reporter working on a big story with a confidential informant when the exigencies of the story force her to miss a court date to respond to charges she assaulted somebody somehow. This results in a bench warrant for her arrest.

Her ex-husband, Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler, WHY?!) happens to be a down-on-his-luck alcoholic gambler and bounty hunter, who of course jumps at the chance to apprehend his ex-wife, whom he dislikes immensely, or likes immensely, who cares? It's not a real tension, as there is no chemistry between the lead actors, and the script doesn't even attempt to develop it believably either.

Gerard Butler is so bad in this film that I nominate him for my oft-proposed Robot World movie, in which we take actors who have some kind of blackmail information about famous Hollywood directors or producers, or some inexplicable box office appeal which keeps getting them major leading roles in productions despite their utter lack of acting talent or actual appeal, and make them play robots, to disguise their pathological bad acting choices and make off with the loot. In fact, Butler has already done well in a similar role, in last year's Gamer.

But the script is probably the biggest problem with the film. Replacing Butler with somebody talented would not have been enough to help, unless that person were also an ace script doctor, or brought one with him. Everything anybody says is a boring cliché. Nothing is funny. Sometimes it seems as though somebody on the screen, or maybe the director, thinks something funny might have happened, so they move on to the next scene. For some reason, Christine Baranski's outtakes from The Birdcage have been spliced in. Her comic timing boldly affronts every other element in the picture, but she still can't make laughs out of thin air. Carol Kane, Jeff Garlin, Cathy Moriarty and Jason Sudeikis also appear, and let me extend my heartfelt condolences to them.

Even the soundtrack is out of rhythm. It's like they had a big musical brainstorming session in search of songs whose beats would perfectly sabotage any sense of fun or forward motion. I am not exaggerating. They found the precise chunka-chunka of doom and boredom and raised the stakes with each new selection.

It reminded me of a couple of other films which were cartoonish action/romantic comedies trying for a kind of old-fashioned charm, Undercover Blues and I Love Trouble. These are not great movies, either, but they're passable. Some of the cartoonishness is actually dynamic and entertaining in those two, there is chemistry and there are jokes and set-ups, and even some romance, which basically pay off.

Not so for The Bounty Hunter. David Letterman compared it to It Happened One Night during a recent interview with Aniston, and the plot is a little bit similar. Let's just say that was an extremly tactful and personally considerate comment to have made. Aniston dared not reply or pursue the comparison, wisely. It is insulting to Clark Gable, but fortunately he cannot complain.

I hadn't felt this underwhelmed after seeing a major studio comedy since probably Beverly Hills Cop 3, which actually made me cry. The Bounty Hunter is not quite that bad, but there's nothing good about it. I could not in good conscience recommend it as a movie to anyone for any purpose.

3-19-10


Links for The Bounty Hunter

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site

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