Friday, March 29, 2013

Mediocre, But Not Bad, One For The Money Is Very Average Pulp!

The Good: Moments of humor, Decent plot progression
The Bad: Somewhat predictable, Katherine Heigl’s performance is entirely derivative, Limited character development.
The Basics: One For The Money might have been entirely spoiled by the preview trailers, but it managed to pull of being entertaining.

There are a number of movies I would not have thought I would even bother watching. One For The Money is one of them. And yet, tonight, my wife was in the mood for something pulpy and we settled on One For The Money. She had seen the preview trailers and actually seemed excited about it. So, we watched it and I was surprised by how watchable it actually was. One For The Money might have all of its best lines spoiled in the preview trailer, but it develops well over the course of its ninety minutes. One For The Money is predictable, does not have incredible acting and is not remarkable in any way . . . but it wasn’t actually bad, which surprised me.

In fact, the worst aspect of One For The Money is Katherine Heigl’s acting. Like Jim Carrey in Batman Forever (reviewed here!) essentially playing Matthew Frewer as the Riddler, Katherine Heigl plays Erika Christensen and/or Lisa Kudrow in her performance as Stephanie Plum. As the movie began, both my wife and I were trying to place exactly who Heigle was reminding us of. We shut our eyes and she came up with Erika Christensen and I came up with Lisa Kudrow and we were both right! Heigl is playing both of them as she tries to portray Stephanie Plum, a character I had no prior interest in.

Stephanie Plum is behind in all her bills and her car is repossessed in front of her parents. She goes to her cousin, Vinnie, who manages a bounty hunting firm. When Vinnie’s employee Morty Beyers sicks out on collecting a half million dollar bounty on Joe Morelli, Stephanie demands the account. Morelli was her first back in high school and now, the ex-police officer is a fugitive accused of murder. Plum quickly finds Morelli, but he eludes her, without actually asserting his innocence. Plum starts following a trail that starts with a boxing training facility and an encounter that leaves her menaced by a fighter there.

That encounter puts Plum on the trail of the one witness who might be able to exonerate Morelli. As Plum meets with prostitutes, police officers, and criminal lowlifes, she learns the bounty hunter trade (firing a gun, not dropping her guard, and how to steal a car) and attracts the attention of the much more experienced, hunky, Ranger, she is put in danger and she wrestles with the feelings Morelli raises in her. Through a convoluted series of events, she tracks down the truth!

For a guy who is on the run from everyone, Joe Morelli is seen virtually everywhere that Stephanie Plum is. I mean, Morelli is hardly underground in One For The Money, so how the police never catch up to him is more a commentary on the incompetence of the police than it is the skill of Morelli or Plum!

As for the acting, outside Heigl performing in a way that was entirely derivative of other actresses, One For The Money is just filled with hunky goodlooking guys and the Hollywood version of “normal” people who generally look better-than-average. None of the performances really shocked or impressed me, though Debra Monk was suitably impressive to me, having seen her primarily before on NYPD Blue. Debbie Reynolds, Sherri Shepherd, and John Leguizamo all give supporting performances that are adequate, but are well within their respective established emotional ranges.

The thing is, none of the characters truly pop. In One For The Money, it is virtually impossible for the viewer to actually care about the fate of Stephanie Plum, Ranger, or Morelli. Like oh so many pulp novels geared toward women, the trend in One For The Money is to give Plum two men to try to choose between and, frankly, it is hard to get emotionally invested enough in either of them to care. Ranger is a Hunky McGoodlooking who is around for obvious sex appeal and to provide Plum with some sense of plausibility for her sudden career – he mentors her and teaches her how to develop the skills she would need to realistically pull off the film’s resolution. Whether Morelli is a coldblooded killer or a man who killed in self defense is almost inconsequential; he is given more real sexual chemistry with Plum than she and Ranger really have, making the viewer feel like they will be thrust together regardless of Morelli’s guilt or innocence.

The plot progression for One For The Money is entirely predictable with few real surprises for anyone who is familiar with bounty hunter films (or has seen The Bounty Hunter, reviewed here!, before this). What left me less impressed about One For The Money was that there were no truly memorable lines, save “Screw god!” [BOOM!], to make the characters or the situation seem particularly compelling or unique.

Lacking wit, original narrative structure or performances that really shatter my perception of the actors involved, it is hard for a simple chase or mystery movie to impress me these days and One For The Money left me unimpressed. But, it did not leave me bored or hating it and that is, sometimes, all that I can ask for from a genre movie.

For other works with Katherine Heigl, please visit my reviews of:
The Ugly Truth
27 Dresses
Knocked Up


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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