Dimension Films // 1996 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // June 15th, 2001
It's open season on the bad guy...
Alas, poor Michael Dudikoff, I knew him well. From a hopeful beginning to his career he seems relegated to straight to cable fare for eternity. I actually like him, sort of the same way I like Velveeta in a grilled cheese sandwich. He fills a niche in usually mindless action movies you catch on HBO, and I'm just pedestrian enough to like watching them on occasion. Bounty Hunters is processed cheese food through and through, predictable and formulaic, and definitely in the B category of films. But as such films go, it's pretty good. Dimension Home Video has released the film from the bonds of Showtime and now it is loose on DVD.
Daniel "Jersey" Bellini (Michael Dudikoff) is a bounty hunter (big surprise, I know), and a good one. Despite a paranoiac streak that leads him to place numerous booby traps in his house he seems a well adjusted fellow, and has befriended the young boy next door. His relationship with B.B. (Lisa Howard) isn't quite so friendly; they both work for the same bail bondsman and compete for the same fugitives for their livings, which ended a prior off-screen relationship. When both of them are set after the same slimy car thief who has jumped bail things get out of hand. It seems the last car he stole had a woman in the trunk; a woman on her way to be killed because she witnessed a mob related killing. The car thief got away, but the two bounty hunters find the girl, and now have to protect her from the mob.
There isn't a surprise to be had anywhere in this story. As soon as I saw the young friend, I knew he was going to be used against the Dudikoff character. Virtually every twist in the plot is foreshadowed in the typical way that a television detective show has used since the genre began. In fact, I'd liken the film to a generic episode of such a television series such as "Magnum P.I" or "Hunter." The direction and story follow closely to the formula. But it's pretty well done as such things go; Michael Dudikoff plays his role well and Lisa Howard holds up her own end well enough. The several action scenes include several martial arts fights and a few gun battles, and they are done very nicely.
The supporting cast is also up to the challenge; the main villain is creepy and quirky enough and even the henchmen have their own foibles. The banter between all the characters is above expectations for the genre. I'm not saying it took an Einstein to write the script, but the writers did a good job with the dialogue. The plot was very predictable but at least all the twists tie back together by the end, which isn't always the case in straight-to-cable movies.
I liked the film, but the bar was set pretty low to begin with. Bounty Hunters will never be confused with a big-budget action thriller. I would expect more out of the movie if it were. The story is very, very predictable; something I keep harping on, but only when compared to other cable movies is this acceptable. The action scenes tend to go overboard into martial arts considering how many characters are packing guns; it rarely takes long for someone to be disarmed so we can see the fists a-flying. That's probably a good thing; it keeps the body count down into the battlefield range instead of full fledged war.
The DVD presentation is very average as well; perhaps also fitting the caliber of film we're talking about. The 1.85:1 transfer is anamorphic, which is a nice surprise considering the film never saw a theatrical release. Colors are a bit faded and black levels tend toward dark blue; and the image quality is a bit soft but still watchable. Adequate, certainly, but nothing to brag about. The sound is pretty fine considering it is only a Dolby Surround track. Gunshots had a decent punch; not something you'd break out for demo material but better than I expected from a two-channel track. There isn't much activity going on, however; most of the sound comes from the front with the exception of the musical score. Dialogue is clear and understandable at all times, at least. Extra content consists of nine sneak peek trailers; which is only fine if you like trailers.
This one isn't going to make you yearn to rush out and buy the disc, but it isn't bad for an evening's rental. You could do worse. I enjoyed it for what it is, and so long as you don't expect the moon it should meet with your approval.
Everyone is acquitted, but beware this judge's wrath, because I still have to watch...Bounty Hunters 2.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R