Bounty Hunter, The (United States, 2010)

March 18, 2010
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Bounty Hunter, The Poster

Is The Bounty Hunter a romance with elements of comedy and action? Is it a comedy action film with a side dish of romance? Or is it a romantic comedy with action inserted in place of the usual "romantic complications?" Whatever the case, it hardly matters, since the movie doesn't do justice to any of the three genres it misrepresents. The putrid result never rises even to the lofty heights of mediocrity. The romance is unconvincing. The action is boring and more likely to induce slumber than elevate the pulse. And the comedy will cause more grimaces than guffaws. Having endured this production, I look back on it with the same fondness I might regard something unpleasant I scraped from the sole of my shoe.

The Bounty Hunter suffers from an identity crisis. Instead of doing what any self-respecting romantic comedy should do and spend time getting us to laugh with the characters, it punctuates every sparse scene of generic dialogue with pedestrian action: gun fights, car chases, etc. Director Andy Tennant makes the cataclysmic mistake of believing there are people in the audience who care about these things and the convoluted excuse for a plot that makes them necessary. Everyone who attends The Bounty Hunter is there for the interplay between Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. No one cares about dirty cops and faked suicides. As minor elements to nudge the narrative forward, they might be acceptable, but too often during the course of this film, they are the driving force. Tennant is not an action director and it shows - this kind of crafting makes one appreciate Kevin Smith's work in Cop Out. His idea of spicing things up is to have a golf course chase scene set to "Stayin' Alive." I can assure you, the use of that song in another movie is infinitely more memorable.

Still, it might be worth suffering through the action to get to the romance if it seemed like either of the stars cared enough to make it worth our while. They don't. The by-the-numbers script has them spar a lot, recognize they really care about each other, plow through a misunderstanding that undermines their newfound coziness, and finally get together in the end. This is supposed to be a fun formula exploring the thin line between love and hate, but the emotion I experienced during the course of The Bounty Hunter was the latter one, and it was aimed at the people responsible for my losing 110 minutes of my life. Aniston and Butler, both veterans of the genre, exhibit zero chemistry. They're equally unconvincing when tossing vituperations at one another as they are when canoodling. Both are more frumpy than sexy. To think more kindly of them, I try to recall The Good Girl and 300; the memories are hard to conjure in the immediate wake of this.

Nicole (Aniston) and Milo (Butler) are exes. Three years ago, on the Fourth of July, they were married. Now they're divorced and "bitter" doesn't begin to describe what's between them. Milo, once a cop and now a bounty hunter, is assigned a case he expects to relish - find Nicole and bring her to jail. Having failed to show up for a court hearing (because she was investigating a lead for a story she's writing for a New York newspaper), her bail was revoked and now she's a fugitive. Milo soon learns that this job won't be as fun or easy as he anticipated, in large part because Nicole has stumbled onto something big and there are bad guys who want her dead. As soon as he enters the picture, they want him dead, too. Soon, Milo and Nicole are on the run together from a bunch of henchmen hired by the Grand Puh Bah Villain (the always-creepy Peter Greene).

It's telling that Columbia Pictures is selling The Bounty Hunter as being "from the director of Hitch." Of course, that was five years ago, but it's probably better than reminding potential viewers that Tennant's previous theatrical feature was Fool's Gold. As far as the lead actors are concerned, Aniston is coming off the painful Love Happens, which hardly anyone saw. Butler's previous offerings were the moronic Law Abiding Citizen and Gamer, which was seen by even fewer people than Love Happens.

If there's anything to like about The Bounty Hunter, it's Christine Baranski doing a Joan Rivers impersonation. She's only on screen for about five minutes, however, so there's not much to savor. The rest of the movie is best forgotten, ignored, or both. No need to feel sorry for Aniston and Butler, however - both were paid handsomely to sleepwalk their way through these parts. Instead, pity should be reserved for those who pay money expecting to see a blend of action, romance, and comedy and end up with a convoluted, unappealing mess whose best function is as a non-narcotic sleep medication.

Bounty Hunter, The (United States, 2010)

Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Rose, Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick, Peter Greene
Screenplay: Sarah Thorp
Cinematography: Oliver Bokelberg
Music: George Fenton
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 1:50
U.S. Release Date: 2010-03-19
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Content, Profanity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1