Judge Dan Mancini was disappointed to learn this isn't a romcom starring Boba Fett.
It's a job. It isn't personal. Well, maybe a little…
The Bounty Hunter currently enjoys an anemic eight-percent aggregated rating at the Rotten Tomatoes web site. It's a mediocre movie, to be sure, but I'm not sure it's quite that bad. It kicks off with self-conscious stylistic flourishes, such as freeze-frames and on-screen text, that suggest it wants to be a manic action-comedy in the vein of a Shane Black or Guy Ritchie flick. But it doesn't have the relentless sense of style or frantic energy that makes either of those filmmakers' work memorable. The movie's convoluted crime story and wealth of picaresque characters evoke Elmore Leonard, but without the wit or supreme control of genre conventions. A genre mash-up of sorts that tries to be a chick flick and a dude movie at the same time, The Bounty Hunter comes off as a mostly rickety pastiche of much better movies and books.
Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler, 300) is a luckless divorced former cop making ends meet as a bounty hunter. The stars seem to align in his favor when he picks up a $5,000 bounty on his ex-wife, reporter Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston, Office Space). He figures he can kill two birds with one stone: making enough cash to pay off his gambling debts while enjoying the satisfaction of busting his ex on a failure to appear rap. Once the couple is acrimoniously reunited, matters become complicated as Milo gets caught up in Nicole's pursuit of the story of a high-profile alleged suicide she believes was murder. Her snooping raises the ire of a merciless criminal (Peter Greene, Pulp Fiction) involved in a police corruption scandal, as well as Milo's heartless bookie (Cathy Moriarty, Raging Bull) and her bumbling goon (Ritchie Coster, The Dark Knight).
Much of the blame for the movie's faults lies with director Andy Tennant. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and a technically solid journeyman director (I enjoyed his romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama as a piece of disposable entertainment), but he doesn't have a robust enough personal style to achieve his ambitions with The Bounty Hunter. For a movie that daringly mixes genres—or at least attempts to do so—The Bounty Hunter feels entirely generic. Tennant manages the romantic and comedic elements of the movie far better than the action. Aside from a little gunplay and a carefully staged car crash that is no more elaborate than what occurred almost weekly on cop shows in the '70s and '80s, the flick has little in the way of kinetic excitement. As a result, it comes off as a chick flick aping the conventions of actioners in a limp attempt to put male butts in theater seats. The movie wants to be a frenetic mix of romance and off-the-chain action. Instead, it's a by-the-book romantic comedy cluttered with action that is competent at best and a crime storyline that too often feels like an afterthought.
The movie still might have worked as light entertainment if the romantic comedy was satisfying, but Gerard Butler was horribly miscast. Tapped by Tennant for the role because of his action bona fides, he doesn't have enough to do on the action front and fails to carry the romance. He's not entirely incompetent, just lacking in the required charm and romantic charisma. At its heart, The Bounty Hunter wants to be a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930s, movies in which rambunctious, quick-witted couples (often estranged or divorced) spar with each other both verbally and emotionally even as circumstances push them closer and closer together. Butler has screen presence, but not the sort that lends itself to the sly, rakish charm screwball comedies demand. While watching The Bounty Hunter, I couldn't help but think it would be a much better movie if Aniston (who is a perfect fit for her character) had been paired with, say, George Clooney (and I say that as someone who is, by and large, a fan of Butler's work).
Sony's DVD release of The Bounty Hunter delivers a decent transfer with accurate colors and solid detail. Digital artifacts aren't quite non-existent, but they're so minor as to be only noticeable to those looking for them. The presentation is in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced. Audio is presented in a rock-solid Dolby 5.1 mix that emphasizes dialogue, but handles effects well during the few action sequences. A French dub is also available, as well as an audio description (in English) for the visually impaired.
Supplements are weak. There are two electronic press kits: "Making The Bounty Hunter" and "Stops Along the Road," as well as a third featurette called "Rules for Outwitting a Bounty Hunter" that amounts to little more than a trailer for the movie.
The Bounty Hunter was a decent concept that fell apart in the execution. The romance and comedy are swamped by an action star who isn't in his element, and the action is undermined by a director working outside of his comfort zone. Though unremarkable in the extras department, the DVD is decent enough to merit a rental by the curious.
Guilty as charged.
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