Monday, March 22, 2010


"The Bounty Hunter" (* out of ****) is not a rewarding experience. This lightweight but disposable comedy of errors about a grumpy bail bondsman up to his ears in gambling debts who must track down his investigative journalist ex-wife and take her into custody for bumping an NYPD police horse lacks momentum, coherence, and surprises. Indeed, the two leads--gorgeous blond Jennifer Aniston and rugged unshaven Gerard Butler--radiate more than enough physical chemistry, but a lackluster script lets them down. "Hitch" director Andy Tennant and "See Jane Run" scenarist Sarah Thorp have created an interesting premise packed with irony, but they blew it by having our attractive leads bicker with each other more often bash the bad guys in this lolly-gagging 110 minute misfire. Although it struggles to combine comedy with suspense as hilariously as both the Robert De Niro & Charles Grodin bounty hunting comedy "Midnight Run" (1988) and the witty Clint Eastwood & Bernadette Peters saga "Pink Cadillac" (1989) did, "The Bounty Hunter" rarely succeeds with either comedy or suspense. Nothing adds up here in this artificial romance about a divorced couple who rediscover their affection for each other.

New York Daily Times investigative reporter Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston of "Marley & Me")receives a tip that a NYPD cop who leaped off a rooftop may not have committed suicide. Meanwhile, she ignores a summons to appear in court and pursues a red hot lead that may land her a scoop about the cop's mysterious death as well as police corruption. Nicole ditches her court date when her informant, Jimmy (Adam Rose of "The Squid and the Whale"), calls her up frantically as she is about to set foot in the courthouse and demands $500 with the story of a lifetime. Before our heroine can reach Jimmy, a trigger-happy thug with a gun, Mahler (Peter Greene of "Pulp Fiction"), abducts him in broad daylight. Back at the courthouse, the irate judge (Lynda Gravatt of "Landlocked") issues a bench warrant for Nicole's arrest. Ironically, former NYPD Detective Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler of "300") is pleading for more jobs when his boss Sid (Jeff Garlin of "RoboCop 3") hands him the task of hauling his ex-spouse to the hoosegow. Sid wonders if he is making the right decision when Milo reacts with ecstatic joy. Nicole and he were married for all of nine months before they got a divorce. Nicole's career soared as a result of their divorce, while Milo's career went down the crapper.

Simultaneously, Milo has been dodging two tenacious debt collectors. He owes them approximately $11-thousand dollars and needs the dough from Nicole's bond to pay them off. Naturally, when he cannot find Nicole, Milo contacts his former mother-in-law, a loony Atlantic City lounge singer, Kitty Hurley (Christine Baranski of "Mamma Mia!"), who sends him off to a nearby racetrack. Nicole, it seems, believes that she can take advantage of all the good luck that abandons other people at the racetrack to help her in her quest. Nicole's bubble bursts when Milo shows up and stuffs her unceremoniously into the trunk of a powder-blue limo. Inevitably, this leads to a succession of Nicole escaping from Milo and Milo recapturing her before our hero finally encounters Mahler. Not only does the murderous Mahler sideswipe Milo's car to get at Nicole, but he also exchanges gunfire with Milo. Milo starts taking Nicole seriously, especially when she implicates his former NYPD detective partner Bobby (Dorian Missick of "Rachel Getting Married") as a dirty cop. Naturally, Milo refuses to believe that Bobby, who gave Nicole away to him at their wedding, could be involved in corruption of any kind.

An array of harebrained supporting characters does nothing to supplement the humor in "The Bounty Hunter," except to make it seem even more labored. First, Irene (Cathy Moriarty of "Raging Bull") dispatches two incompetent morons to collect the big bucks that Milo owes her. Neither nitwit has any success, however, at recouping Irene's dough. Second, rather than nabbing Milo, they mistake an idiotic New York Daily News reporter, Stewart (Jason Sudeikis of "The Rocker"), for Milo. Stewart desperately wants to team up with Nicole on the suicide story. Nicole refuses to have anything to do with Stewart, but he stubbornly declines to take no for an answer. Repeatedly, Nicole turns Stewart down every time that he pleads to collaborate with her. Eventually, Stewart ends up following Milo around so that he can contact Nicole. At one point, Stewart checks the trunk of Milo's car because he thinks that Milo may still have Nicole stashed in it. One of the debt collectors traces Milo's car. When he sees Stewart tampering with the trunk, he assumes that Stewart is Milo. Nothing that Stewart can say persuades the debt collector to let him go. Instead, the debt collector brings Stewart back so Irene can torture him. Irene and company go to work on Stewart before they discover that they are breaking the wrong guy's legs! This exasperating routine turns into a running gag that lacks humor. Eventually, Irene and her henchmen realize that they have made a terrible mistake. Consequently, they call in a racetrack physician who brandishes a giant syringe filled with horse tranquilizer to alleviate Stewart's pain. Unfortunately, this subplot generates little humor, largely because Stewart gets what he deserves for behaving like such an obnoxious lout.

Predictably, everything works out for our heroic couple, but the story is so incoherent and humorless that you don't care what happens to them, or for that matter Stewart in this lackluster opposites-attract-romantic-comedy-thriller.

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