'Bounty Hunter' skips bail

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010

I had assumed that Kevin Smith, in his debacle "Cop Out" of a couple of weeks ago, was unique in his misguided desire to return to the glory of 1980's action comedies. Not so, apparently, as Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler proved this weekend with the completely predictable, completely pointless buddy/chick pic, "The Bounty Hunter." This movie worked in 1988 when it was called "Midnight Run" and starred Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. Twenty-two years later, this current tale of a deadbeat ex-cop who is delighted at the chance to apprehend his oblivious ex-wife falls completely flat.

I catch a lot of flack for being too hard on these silly comedies and chick flicks, but even the most forgiving viewer would have to admit that the writing in "The Bounty Hunter" is pretty abysmal. And really, in a movie like this, what else is there?

Aniston and Butler, as the warring couple, are certainly attractive and have proven that they can act, but no real acting is required in this film. Just a lot of smirking and pouting. As well, the directing is pretty much cookie cutter, by-the-numbers stuff. Car chase here, laugh line there, explosion, explosion, and you're done. The writing is the only chance a film like "Hunter" has to shine. With good writing, you turn forced situational comedy in to "Raising Arizona." With bad writing you get what we saw this weekend. Nothing.

Gerard Butler, as Milo Boyd, is the titular bounty hunter. Obnoxious and flat broke, Milo is a former detective who was kicked off the force for excessive drinking and now makes a living tracking down bail jumpers. Think "Dog the Bounty Hunter" without all the leather and charisma. Aniston plays his bizarrely oblivious ex, Nicole Hurley. Hurley is a reporter who, after an incident with a police horse, is ordered to court to face charges for striking an officer. However, after receiving a hot tip regarding a suspicious suicide story she's working on, she thinks nothing of skipping the court appearance altogether. Enter Milo, who is tasked by her bail bondsman to find her and bring her back. Not that she's on the run. No, she's at the track, "soaking up some luck," almost as though she had no idea she'd done anything wrong. Far be it from me to criticize, but I find it hard to believe someone so obtuse would have made it to the level of fry cook, let alone "big city reporter."

When Milo finds her, Nicole naturally runs. Not, however, because she's afraid of prison, but because it would be inconvenient for her story. Also, she doesn't want to give Milo the satisfaction. That I could understand, because a less likeable character I have not seen in a while.

Regardless, the two wind up on an interstate chase/romp/adventure, including casinos, bed & breakfasts, car chases, and plenty of oh-so-witty repartee. The only mildly funny element in the film is a parallel subplot wherein Jason Sudekis, playing a co-worker and potential suitor of Nicole's, is mistaken for Milo and tortured by mob heavies. Wait. Did I say funny, or creepy and sad? Poor Sudekis is a gifted comedian, and does his best, but it's hard to make the above description humorous. Maybe with better writing ...

Late March is about the time we work our way out of the end-of-winter doldrums, where they dump movies that have no shot at any kind of box office, and start working our way into spring and summer, where the splashy fun movies are. Coming up in the next few weeks are the big-budget remake of "Clash of the Titans," as well as the R-rated superhero flick, "Kick-Ass." Big comedies coming our way are the Steve Carell/Tina Fey outing "Date Night," as well as re-make of the British hit, "Death at a Funeral." Then it's summer and time for "Iron Man 2," "Robin Hood," and even another "Shrek" movie.

Not all of these upcoming films will be good. In fact, it's a good bet that fewer than half of them will, but still, it gives one hope to think of what's to come, especially after the rough start the year's getting. "The Bounty Hunter" will be forgotten soon, and Aniston and Butler can forge ahead with promising careers. Jennifer's got a charming sounding film called "The Switch," in the works wherein the sperm sample she obtains gets mixed up with one from her best guy friend.

Wow. Butler, on the other hand, has a voice role in next week's "How to Train your Dragon," which is supposed to be cute, as well as a Shakespeare adaptation.

Again, hope springs eternal. Aniston is also making a movie called "The Goree Girls," a true story about a group of female Texas inmates in the 1940s who become a country music sensation. Maybe the "The Bounty Hunter" won't completely arrest these two talented actors for good.

Grade: D+

"The Bounty Hunter" is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and suggestive dialogue.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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