The Good: One or two lines (mostly from Christine Baranski)
The Bad: No chemistry between principles, Predictable plot, Obvious choreography, No great performances
The Basics: Dismally unfunny with some overly choreographed action sequences, The Bounty Hunter disappoints.
One of the nice things about being a screener for films is that I have the opportunity to beat the rush and beat the crowds and pan early. It’s not a great benefit, but if you’re thinking about going out on a weekend and can’t decide what to watch, sometimes, the early reviews are super helpful. In the case of The Bounty Hunter,” one almost feels a negative review is redundant for anyone who has seen the preview trailers for the film. Sometimes, in the effort to sell a movie to the potential audience, the film companies have to give away all of the best moments and in the case of The Bounty Hunter, that is certainly the case. Moving my review now that the film is on DVD also seems redundant. This was not a great box office draw and now, it flounders on video. Nevertheless . . .
The Bounty Hunter is an action adventure film intended to be loaded with snappy one-liners and reversals and action sequences, but the whole thing falls flat more often than not. The dialogue is not clever, the conflict is forced and the direction the movie takes is so predictable that it seems like it might have been written as part of a class on scriptwriting. But more than the script problems, the direction from Andy Tennant stands out as unfortunately lackluster; I cannot recall the last time I saw an action movie where the sequences seemed so choreographed. Of course, every movie’s fight and stunt sequences are choreographed, but the best movies succeed in making the viewer feel like they are not. The worst, or at least in The Bounty Hunter, leave the viewer feeling like they have just watched a sequence with the wires still visible and the director yelling commands throughout.
Milo Boyd is a bounty hunter who is in a rough patch, having just scraped by on his last few assignments. But his mood turns around when he is given an assignment; to bring in his ex-wife, Nicole. Nicole has jumped bail and Milo enthusiastically goes searching for her, catching her fairly easily using his knowledge of her from their time spent married. As Nicole gets frustrated by being caught by her loutish ex-husband, she tries to convince him to release her and let her finish the assignment she was working on, which involves exposing the guilty parties in a cover up for a high profile murder. But Milo does not trust his reporter ex’s instincts and he continues to recapture her at every turn.
Sadly, once Milo has Nicole firmly in his custody, he finds his own life in danger. As it happens, Nicole is onto a hot story that many people do not want made public. Milo’s bounty hunting job soon becomes a desperate attempt to keep Nicole and himself alive and, rather predictably, he becomes involved in her investigation.
The Bounty Hunter is formulaic in ways that are likely to surprise viewers . . . and not in a good way. The surprise here is in not what happens next or what direction the movie goes in, but rather that a film that is so obvious was ever made. Sarah Thorp seems to have no real fresh ideas or takes on the chase caper and the reversals are predictable and tend to set up the next reversal more than actually flow in a way that makes story sense.
On the character front, The Bounty Hunter is populated by adult characters who seldom act like adults. Nicole acts with a churlish degree of secrecy that reminds one of a teenager. Her continual attempt to bribe people by showing her breasts (which is not done on-screen) is ridiculous and desperate. Similarly, Milo is very much the dumb brute who has little need for conversation and is more proficient with the guns and cars and fists than with the talking. This works to the detriment of The Bounty Hunter because the viewer is asked to believe Nicole is smart enough to have stumbled on the clues leading her to the cover-up despite that fact that she shows little adeptness for such a task after the movie gets going. As for Milo, he’s terribly uncomplicated and the emphasis on his drive to get Nicole into custody wears thin after the first shots are taken at him. Neither of the characters is terribly mature and this is a film where one just wishes Nicole would be up-front with Milo and disclose what is going on. Of course, then there wouldn’t be much of a movie. Or if there was, it would actually have characters who developed.
If The Bounty Hunter involved Nicole divulging all of her secrets and plans to Milo and him not believing her because of his own stubbornness or pride, the movie could have been a surprisingly smart and complex psychological exploration of trust and distrust. Instead, the movie panders to the lower instincts and denominators and instead of being clever or character-driven, the movie is plot-heavy and generally things happen to the characters because they happen to be around in the first two thirds and because they go looking for them in the last third of the film. The primary characters do not motivate most of the movement of the film and as a result, the movie feels contrived and we are never truly invested in the characters.
As far as the acting goes, The Bounty Hunter does put Jennifer Aniston in some situations where she has to play more of an action role than she has in the past. Between that and an almost complete lack of charm from the usually superb Anniston illustrates that she is able to act and she is performing in this flick. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Gerard Butler. Butler essentially is playing the middle point between his performances in The Ugly Truth as a kind of smarmy chauvinist we’re supposedly supposed to like and Gamer as a bland action hero who takes the punches, runs, jumps and everything else in a pretty mechanized way.
Unfortunately, the death knell of The Bounty Hunter is that Aniston and Butler have less than zero in the on-screen chemistry department. The two do not make a plausible couple and their interplay is more forced than fresh. The stiffness between them makes the last portions of the movie entirely unbelievable and unpleasant to watch.
On DVD, The Bounty Hunter now has a commentary track, deleted scenes and featuettes, none of which add enough value to make it worth purchasing.
Those who are looking for entertainment are not likely to find it with The Bounty Hunter. Those looking for a way to kill time will find better ways than this movie.
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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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