Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out on Bail

It was bound to happen.

It seems that every time you turn around, some form of entertainment has romanticized the few things that didn't need to be romanticized, especially employments that aren't, shall we say, deemed very stylish. Sure, A&E's Dog the Bounty Hunter has brought the necessary trade of bounty hunting to the eyes of the public, and there are fewer more memorable characters in pop culture than Star Wars's Bobba Fett. However we've never seen bounty hunters in a very romantic light, so distracted are we by the pursuit of their quarry. We've never had a "Bounty Hunter's Wife", if you will.

Until now.

I'll admit I wasn't in any hurry to see The Bounty Hunter when it was released this past March, so unimpressed I was with the theatrical trailer that I let it drop below my radar. Even when I was hunting down movies to watch recently, seeing it available for rent did not stop me from watching other, more interesting films instead. Despite generally liking Gerard Butler and (to a lesser extent) Jennifer Aniston, there just didn't seem to be enough to the film to keep my interest, at least until I saw another trailer when I rented Youth in Revolt. Maybe I was just in a good mood, but the trailer seemed funnier than I'd remembered, and so, since I like the occasional comedy with all the more action-y and angst-y films I tend to watch, I picked it up on my next go-around at Redbox.

The movie presents us with Butler as Milo, a bounty hunter who has gotten the job of a lifetime: His ex-wife Nicole, played by Aniston, didn't show up for court on an unnamed arrest and now her bail has been revoked, meaning Milo will make $5,000 to take his wife back to jail. Milo, who's run up an impressive gambling debt, and would love an excuse to stick it to the woman who made his life miserable, thinks this will the best, easiest money he ever made. Meanwhile Nicole, a reporter, skipped out on bail to meet with a contact who claimed to have important information for her about the story she's working on, an apparent suicide that doesn't add up and won't let a little thing like a bounty on her head stop her from pursuing the story.
The first thing to note about The Bounty Hunter is how formulaic it is. It's a romantic comedy first, with a few poorly-executed action and suspense scenes thrown in to appease the male audience. The idea of fate drawing Milo and Nicole together under these circumstances is not a little ridiculous and definitely trite, as it's obvious to us, the audience, that the whole premise is to create an argument for these two seemingly-mismatched characters to get back together. However, some of the best scenes in the film are those that prove that fact, such as a few where Milo impresses Nicole with his knowledge of her, and showing a sensitivity she didn't know he had.

The acting is by far the best thing about the film, and that credit belongs by far the most to Butler and Aniston. There's something to be said for having fun on the set, and both actors seem to be having a blast with both the comedic and serious material they're handed, and the natural charisma between the two suggest this won't be the last time they connect on the big screen. They both seem to feed off the other when they're onscreen together, and the scenes where they are together are the best scenes of the film. Butler is roguishly beguiling as Milo, a man who greatly loves his job and always gets his man, but also has a sensitive side and an addictive personality, exacerbated by his gambling debt. Yes, I realize I described Butler as "roguishly beguiling", do you have a problem with that? Aniston is also wonderful if not quite as good as Butler. She's never been a great actress but she plays the same archetype so well, and that's pretty much Nicole to a T. Shamelessly devoted to her job, getting the big story is most important on her list of objectives, all other things falling behind. It's been described to me that Aniston does angry well, and that's certainly true here, where she has plenty of opportunity to express that particular emotion. Their chemistry together really makes the film move forward, and it's by far the only thing I can recommend to people wanting to see this movie.

It's too bad the supporting cast couldn't live up to the talent of it's top-billers. Probably the most disappointing is the lack of a charismatic villain to hound the two heroes. Though there are two antagonists hunting both Nicole and Milo (Peter Greene and Cathy Moriarty, respectively), Moriarty doesn't have much impact as a secondary adversary. She plays a crooked casino owner who wants to collect on Milo's debt. Greene is the primary antagonist, hunting down Nicole so she can't uncover the truth about the story she's investigating, but he's not very interesting and doesn't play a large role in the film, as the crime/action aspect of the story constantly takes a backseat to the romantic angles. Jason Sudekis might be the worst part of the film, a completely superfluous character who has a crush on Nicole and stalks her some ways into the movie after she jumps bail. Between his character's creepiness and Sudekis' pornstache, there's nothing to like about the character, and the movie would have been better off without him. Dorian Messick and Jeff Garlin are fine in small roles, but the best of the supporting cast is by far Christine Baranski as Nicole's mother, a lounge singer in Atlantic City. She's the type of character that never fails to elicit at least a chuckle from me as a slightly perverted, say-anything maternal figure with a cosmo perpetually in their hand, like Jessica Walter's characters in Arrested Development and 90210. It's a shame she's not in more of the movie, but I think too much might have been overkill, so perhaps it's good they didn't over-saturate the film with Baranski's role.

The few suspense and action scenes thrown into the mix don't make the movie much better. In one scene towards the end, especially, it's ridiculous to see Milo searching throughout a warehouse trying his best to look like a real former-cop. The scenes may be the only semblance of a plot in the whole movie, as the romantic angle would be nothing without them, but one wonders if director Andy Tennant could not have done more to make those scenes as important as the rest of the film. On top of that, I can't get over the feeling that if Nicole had simply gone into court that day, there would be no movie. I need my stories to be a little more complex than ones hinging on one precarious plot thread.

In end end, I enjoyed The Bounty Hunter. That is to say, I enjoyed the performances of Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, and the rest of the film could have been performed my monkeys on trampolines and it wouldn't have made a difference. The Bounty Hunter had a lot of things against it, including a nebulous plot, poor action and suspense bits and a mediocre and uninvolved supporting cast. Only the acting of Butler and Aniston and their interactions with one another prevent this movie from being totally unwatchable, though I still don't recommend you rent it unless you've got a hankering for romantic comedies and you've already seen the rest. Date Night, a far superior film, has already been knocked off my Top 10 list, so don't expect this one to hit that list anytime soon. It's better than it has any right being, but not by much.

1 comment:

Opinioness of the World said...

See, I told ya Jen Aniston does angry well!! I think she's an incredibly underrated actor. Sure she's got oodles of money yet people rarely talk about her acting abilities, preferring instead to dish about her looks or her love life or lack thereof. Is she the next Meryl Streep? No, of course not. But she's funny, sarcastic and angry. I feel like she's the kind of woman I'd like to get a drink with and make snarky comments.