Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: "The Bounty Hunter"

I like Gerard Butler. I like Jennifer Aniston. Both are intrinsically charismatic performers, who make an audience want to root for them and spend time with them. Put them together in a lame romantic/action comedy, though, and I wanted to haul them both off to cinematic detention.

What a lame, cynical, lazy and boring flick "The Bounty Hunter" is. It's about a burnout ex-cop who brings in criminals who jump bail, and leaps at the chance to nab his ex-wife.

It starts out with ... wait, do I even need to describe the plot to you? I think anyone with half a brain who's seen more than two movies in their lifetime could accurately predict the arc of this entire film based just on that one-sentence summation.

They fight, they play a running game of one-upmanship, they exchange enough bile to melt titanium right up until the moment they realize they are still, in fact, deeply in love.

"Bounty" is an original script by Sarah Thorp ... although I'm using the word "original" in a very loose sense. Imagine every cliche of the romantic comedy, and stitch it together with every shtick from buddy-cop action flicks, and you've got this movie. Director Andy Tennant ("Fool's Gold") layers on the bantering tone and physical slapstick.

Aniston plays Nicole, a hotshot reporter for the New York Daily News, chasing down a story about the supposed suicide of a police evidence clerk. It's the sort of portrait of a journalist in which she never speaks to an editor, never seems to have a deadline, sticks her nose into dangerous situations without a clue how to pull it out, and can disappear from the newsroom for days on end without anyone thinking anything is amiss.

Milo used to be a police detective, but turned to drink after the divorce and is now eking out an existence as a bounty hunter. He's in hock to a Jersey loan shark. When the chance to score $5,000 by bringing in Nicole drops into his lap, he's ecstatic.

Her arrest was something about assaulting a police officer with her car, but she ditched her hearing to chase down the story.

They have a predictable assortment of adventures, with a scary guy chasing them around and taking shots at them. All the time, Milo is determined to turn Nicole in -- but not before a few diversions.

They stop in at their honeymoon B&B, but get thrown out for misbehavior. They chase some hapless caddy across a golf course, and when they question him, the audience realizes there's no earthly reason he would have run in the first place, other than he once caddied for the bad guy.

There's even a scene, God help us, where the pair wanders into a casino. Milo starts rolling some hot dice with a little luck from Nicole, who blows on the dice before each toss. Of course, they get into an argument over when it's time to quit while they're ahead, she withholds her blessed breath, and they lose their whole stake.

Other than the dumb jokes and complete lack of originality, the thing that really kills this movie is that we never learn anything about how their relationship went sour. It's hard to understand the context of why Milo is so eager to cause her pain, since we never got to see any that they inflicted on each other. He's just a guy who wants to irritate his ex-wife because ... well, aren't guys supposed to hate their ex-wives?

"The Bounty Hunter" is nothing but a collection of hackneyed story threads and elements, cynically mixed and matched like drinking glass coasters. It is neither funny, nor charming, thrilling or interesting in any way.

1.5 stars

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