Monday, February 13, 2012

Cuff Her

It's a romantic comedy! With guns!

If those two statements combined are enough to make you want to see One For the Money, the latest film to front former Gray's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl, then my job is done. Nothing to see here folks, go to the theater right now and see this film to your heart's desire. No? That's not nearly enough to convince you to see this movie? You're still recovering from The Killers to fall for that twice? Clever girl. Based on first of the extensive Stephanie Plum series by mystery author Janet Evanovich, One for the Money introduces us to one of the more enduring heroines in modern fiction. Stephanie Plum has been the protagonist in eighteen (EIGHTEEN!!) full-length novels, and one has to wonder why with such a loyal fan-base and obvious popularity she hasn't been given the cinematic treatment until now. Maybe producers were just waiting for the right actress to come along, and I'll more than readily give Heigl credit for her talents as an actress, even if she has yet to attain dominance in the film industry. Money seems at least different on the surface from her usual romantic roles, and if it turned out to actually be GOOD, then maybe I could get behind seeing more of this promising performer in the future.

The new meaning of "White Trash"
Stephanie Plum (Heigl) has been out of work for six months following her release from Macy's lingerie department. She's also a recent divorcee who is behind on her bills, rent, and car payments. Using a family connection to get a job as a recovery agent (a fancy term for bounty hunter), she jumps at the chance to collect the bounty on accused murderer Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara), a hard-nosed cop who seduced and dumped Stephanie in high school. Getting pointers from an established and enigmatic agent known as Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), we witness Plum stumble her baby steps on the path to becoming a true bad-ass, as she discovers (naturally) that things are not always what they seem, either in the case she's following or the feelings in her heart.

This just in: new evidence in the "Granny Killer" epidemic...
If there's one reason to see Money, it's definitely Heigl as Plum, who melds so effortlessly into her character that you cannot see the actress at all, only the persona on top. Much of the enjoyment derived from this film is in not only in watching Plum so far out of her element, but the fact that her inner strength and determination help her compensate, becoming far more competent and capable as the story unfolds. Sure, as a romantic character she gets a little cliched around the edges, but when Plum is focused on the action and investigation elements of the tale, she really stands out as a strong woman who would do anything to get her man. Heigl's ability to morph into this role is especially intriguing, once again making her an actress on whom to keep watch.

Someone's overcompensating...
If only the rest of the film were as watchable as its lead actress. There are three major problems with One for the Money. One is the story, which borderlines on ridiculous in its ability to gloss over major plot holes with impunity. I'm not sure if this is also a problem with the novel and not necessarily the film's fault, but anyone who has ever watched a police procedural show could run the list of discrepancies with Money's narrative progression ad infinatum. Sure, it makes for an entertaining ride, but why should logic be thrown out the window in the process? Second is the romantic angle. Sure, Heigl and O'Mara have some chemistry together, in an antagonistic, unfulfilling sort of way. But for the most part it's largely bland, uninteresting, and isn't nearly enough by itself to make for an interesting story. It's far more fun to see Plum and Morelli go at it verbally, as their arguments make for some of the film's more interesting conversations.

Shit, it's the critics! Get down!!
The third and most damning thing wrong with this film is that just about every character is a racist caricature of a real person. Heigl, O'Mara and Daniel Sunjata manage to escape the worst of these criticisms, though O'Mara is a typical tough-guy cop, and Sunjata is so cliched as an emotionless bounty hunter that he barely rates mentioning. At least they're not like Sherri Shepherd, who plays a painfully difficult-to-watch prostitute named Lula, who acts as an informant for Plum. Lula and her associate Jackie (Ryan Michelle Bathe) have a few funny moments but are otherwise in the unfortunate situation of being the only major women of color in the film... and they're hookers. Other stereotypes include violent Latinos (John Leguizamo, Gavin-Keith Umeh), drugged-out Asians (Leonardo Nam) and stuck-up, white trash Caucasians (Patrick Fischler, Nate Mooney). That's right, the film is even racist against whites, which might have been either Evanovich's or director Julie Ann Robinson's justification for going through with it. It's a huge knock against the movie as a whole, and the Hollywood process in general.

Aaand I talked a bit too much. Finishing now.
Still, I didn't feel entirely ripped off coming out of the theater, and so I don't think any of you will either. On a completely base level, you might like One for the Money's pacing, suspense and Katherine Heigl in a rare, interesting lead role. One might think that the Stephanie Plum story will get more interesting as it goes along. That's why it's a shame that this film has done so poorly at the box office, as any prospect for a sequel seems a distant hope at best. Even if it is remains a one-all wonder, it was nice to see Heigl step up to a challenge, and make One for the Money as fun as it is. Sure, it comes in dead last at #6 for 2012, but thanks to this talented actress it won't remain there forever. It's a romantic comedy with guns. If that's all you need, then this film is for you. All others inquire elsewhere.

No comments: