13 May 2013

The Bounty Hunter

The Bounty Hunter Kind of Sort of, well, Sucks.
By Kristin Battestella

Against my better judgment, I finally sat down to watch the 2010 romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter one sickly afternoon. Honestly, I’m a bit embarrassed I watched this stinker in the daytime. Egats!

Cop turned bounty hunter Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) must bring in his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) after a warrant is issued when she misses a court hearing.  Nicole follows a scoop on a murder/suicide story instead, but her source disappears, and she’s trying to find him whilst also trying to avoid Milo’s handcuffs or being locked in his car trunk en route to jail. Toss in bookies, casinos, love struck co-workers, and one zany golf cart, and romance may just blossom again for the former couple.

Onscreen quips, quirky freeze frames, and a chase on stilts begin The Bounty Hunter interestingly enough. However, director Andy Tennant (Ever After) loses this potential charm once the pace slows and we meet our converging exes at their less than fulfilling jobs. One must build the situation, naturally, but this delay on the chase at hand should have been swift, edgy, and unique rather than formulaic. Almost immediately, The Bounty Hunter also suffers from its PG-13 rating. Writer Sarah Thorp (See Jane Run) could have filled a special audience void by keeping this an eclectic little comedy – not an over saturated gross out college romp, but not full on predictable romantic tripe, either. Add some sexy, do some foul creativity – don’t hold back the gags for a demographic you can’t possibly attract – just make something bemusing for the adult audiences who might actually relate to a comedy about divorced folks hating their lives. I mean, really, what teenagers are going to go see a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler? Trapped by these fail safe rom com parameters, The Bounty Hunter further falls with poor editing and a pursuit that feels like it never really happens. Is this tale about uncovering the initial crimes or a wild uncomfortable road trip for leads? No one seems to decide. The uneven, nonessential camera shots and random photography are not hip or edgy – the camera should never leave the leads if this is supposed to be about them on the lamb. Instead, the all over the place storyline goes from sentimental to heavy on a murder/suicide and somehow lone sharks get involved, too. There’s some adult innuendo, but with no clear tone or direction, The Bounty Hunter simply tries every cliché. They hate each other, they drive each other crazy, they get jealous, they check up on each other – yeah, it gets old fast. She runs from him five times and yet they just stop off for a fun bet at the casino? The locations and chain of events make no sense, and The Bounty Hunter should have been much, much shorter with one simple, linear plot. Ironically, I’m not sure one can call this a rom com either, as it is neither romantic nor that funny. The leads and a camera on a car should have been enough to make this picture. I can’t believe this cost upwards of $40 million dollars!

Gerry, Gerry. Gerry, Gerry, Gerry! I really sort of stopped following Gerard Butler ahead of all the magazine covers and jet setting PR for The Bounty Hunter. It was obviously a comparable attempt with you know who – cough Mr. and Mrs. Smith cough – and it seemed just a bit too absurd when reminded of his off screen dedication for 300.  I saw all the tabloids and read the real life romance rumors and thought, “Well he’s made it, and now it’s all downhill.”  Sadly, the last few years have indeed been rocky for Butler. Whether he was willingly into the scene or led astray by the rumor mill, Hollywood has chewed him up and spit him out – as evident by this very film. Now when Butler does make something of note, nobody sees it thanks to his rightly or wrongly garnered notoriety. Is he that bad of an actor? No. Does he have onscreen presence and charisma? Definitely. Even here, despite the bad script and forced hyperbole, his Milo is charming in the straight humorous antics, tracking mud on the carpet and eating Doritos on a white bedspread. I kind of like Butler more brawny than super skinny, and he looks great in The Bounty Hunter – with enough scruff, action casual style, and some wet and obligatory towel scenes. However, I’m not sure about his American accent here. It’s not super bad, but there’s really no reason for him to not let his Scottish brogue run free. Unfortunately, despite Gerry eye candy, I couldn’t wait for The Bounty Hunter to end. Not only did this film not do him any A-list favors, but ultimately, The Bounty Hunter may have sent his career into a nosedive – from which, Butler may have only recently recovered. I’m looking forward to seeing the acclaimed but too little noticed Coriolanus and Machine Gun Preacher, but Butler’s public return to glory (hehe, “Spartans! Prepare for glory!”) depends on the box office success of his new flick Olympus Has Fallen. Although I must say, I did really, really like that one!

In addition to The Bounty Hunter’s unbelievable, all over the place pretentiousness, it’s tough to see Jennifer Aniston as a serious career woman and investigative reporter facing down criminal charges for a story. Is Nicole full of quirky comedy charm ala Aniston in Office Space or a badass confident woman on the case? A character can be both indeed, but either the script, the offbeat presentation, or Aniston doesn’t hold up. Do reporters really do this these days? It’s only been a few years, yet Nicole’s entire character crutch seems flat and out of date – not to mention she’s a bad reporter and a poor liar who can’t seem to get the scoop.  Despite nice legs and running perfectly in high heels, Aniston doesn’t look good with this messy hair in her face. Her voice and delivery also feel off, forced into being hip or casual perhaps. As a pair, Nicole and Milo seem awkward as well; one can’t really believe these two people were ever married. He’s supposedly the lovable oaf while she’s the put together not so put together bitch. It should be rom com gold, but it’s as if The Bounty Hunter’s leads are in two different films. Their arguments are embarrassing, not box office hotness, and things gets worse when the not so coupled couple ‘work’ together. A honeymoon revisit, seriously? Now having seen The Bounty Hunter, I can’t believe anyone thought that Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler’s supposed off screen romance was anything more than spin. Their chemistry here is individual, for their fans only. How did this make so much money?

Likewise, the supporting cast is all over the place in The Bounty Hunter. Christine Baranski (Cybil, Chicago), as always, is awesome as Nicole’s mother. However, she feels too young and cool herself despite being the right age for this maternal role. Her Kitty has fun in her brief scenes with Butler, but Baranski is unfortunately gone from the picture too soon. Why have a hair brained mother at all if you aren’t going to do anything with her? Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) further miffs me as Nicole’s absolutely annoying co-worker Stewart. He follows her into the bathroom in the first five minutes – talk about falling flat and being too creepy to enjoy! I’m glad he also disappears from The Bounty Hunter. Fortunately, Siobhan Fallon (Men in Black) is cute as the frumpy bondsman secretary Theresa. She trades gum with Milo and serves up some much needed sassy! I really wish The Bounty Hunter had focused on pure comedy from this elder bunch rather than trying to compete with these sexy, twenty something, nu rom com frat things.  Did I mention Carol Kane is here, too? The entire cast feels left behind in favor of cliché pursuits and anonymous action.

Yes, even stereotypical action tripes come to play here, and The Bounty Hunter overuses one too many driving jokes. A rickshaw chase full of sight seeing, wild potential ends up totally lame, but the subsequent shoot out and car chase seems completely out of place when it’s played for the action intensity. All that’s followed by a golf cart gag, too. Truly, the best part of The Bounty Hunter is when Nicole is handcuffed to the car door, so she takes it off and with her while making an endearing Kojak reference. The musical cues, however, stink, and the desperate pop soundtrack overtakes the dialogue far too much. One can’t even enjoy the Atlantic City locales, either, as we don’t actually see them very much. The New Jersey jokes are bad, too – and I’m not just saying that because I’m from South Jersey and quite familiar with AC. I mean, Milo pumps his own gas! Could they not fact check these sorts of things? Was The Bounty Hunter meant to be a gambling or casino picture as well? It might have been better that way, if The Hangover–ish. I would liked to have seen a gritty action drama bookie heist with a handcuffed ex wife, too – or Milo as a fallen cop and the breakdown of their marriage in either humor or corruption. Why couldn’t they both have been sexy bounty hunters begrudgingly on the case together? Oh wait, that would have really been too Mr. and Mrs. Smith, wouldn’t it?

I feel quite mean in my assessment of The Bounty Hunter, but it is just so damn indicative of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood – miscast stars selling out onscreen and off, formulaic scripts and film making, massive marketing campaigns ad nauseum, ridiculous amounts of money coming and going when a movie is complete crap, rinse, wash, repeat. The funniest parts of The Bounty Hunter really are all in the trailer, and fans of the cast are better served with individual clips – if one can take any guilty pleasure merits here. Dammit, bad films like this might even anger fans. How does Gerry make such cool stuff like 300 and now Olympus Has Fallen with drivel like this in between? It boggles the mind if you think too much, and The Bounty Hunter is definitely two hours I’d like back for my peace of mind.  

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