Judge Gordon Sullivan is ambivalent about money.
She's looking for a few not-so-good men.
Consistently bestselling authors have a hit-or-miss track record with silver-screen adaptations. Stephen King has had a few good ones, Elmore Leonard even more, and J.K. Rowling obviously hit the jackpot big time. However, there are a number of authors who've moved lots of books without also spawning a Hollywood franchise. One of those authors is Janet Evanovich, whose Stephanie Plum has been in eighteen books as of this review, all of which have sold a tremendous amount. Fans have been clamoring for a big-screen adaptation of their heroine, and 2012 saw Katherine Heigl step in to fill those famous shoes. Though the box office returns indicate that the film was not well received, watching One for the Money (Blu-ray) shows the flick got a bad rap.
Facts of the Case
Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy) just lost her job in a lingerie store. To make ends meet, she turns to bounty hunting. Her first job is to track down Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara, Life on Mars), who just happens to be one of Stephanie's exes. Naturally, things don't go as planned, as Stephanie is drawn deep into criminal shenanigans.
There's an elephant in the room when discussing One for the Money, and that's that The Bounty Hunter reached screens first. Though the genders are reversed here, we still have a film starring a TV-turned-film actress playing opposite a hunky non-American love-interest. In both films, romantic and comedic exploits ensue. Obviously, the films aren't identical, but having The Bounty Hunter come out so shortly before One for the Money couldn't have helped. The lack of promotion and apparent audience awareness of the film and its connection to the books probably didn't add anything either.
Obviously, this helps explain the film's poor box-office status, but what about the merits of the film itself? That's a slightly tougher question to address. One for the Money belongs to the very specific genre of the romance-adventure, where love and dangerous hijinks often go together. The fact that it's also essentially a comedy as well means it's operating in a very limited range. Never having read any of the Plum books, there are a few things I can say:
• Katherine Heigl is great. Her looks are downplayed here (for her to better fit as a working-class kind of woman), and she brings a down-to-earth charm to the role that's impressive. Although she earned her stripes in a medical drama, Heigl is really in her element as a comedienne. Though believable as a tough woman, she also has exquisite timing and the ability to make her exasperation funny. Heigl's even convincing mooning over her prey.
• This could be the start of a decent franchise. No one is expecting high art from this film, and these kinds of genre efforts thrive on the formulaic. Though I doubt that the film's box office performance will lead to the creative team coming back for another one, this film shows that Plum (and especially Heigl as Plum) is an idea with legs. The character is quirky enough, the plot satisfying enough, and the fan base rabid enough to support more of these films. This is also another way of saying that the film does a fine job introducing novices like myself to the world of Stephanie Plum. Though this isn't an epic origin story in the vein of recent comic book adaptations, it does a fine job setting up the parameters of Plum's world.
• This Blu-ray is solid. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is strong on detail and color saturation. I was especially impressed by the exterior shots (with the familiar—to me at least—Pittsburgh area standing in for Trenton). Black levels are appropriate (though this is far from a dark film), and only a few small inconsistencies keep this from being a knockout. The DTS-HD surround track is similarly impressive. We get clean, clear dialogue from the center channel, with surprisingly active rear channels, especially during action scenes. Extras include a pair of featurettes that look at the production of the film and the life of female bounty hunters. We also get a blooper reel that shows Heigl in fine form, a single deleted scene, and the film's trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One for the Money is aimed at a very specific demographic. Chances are if you fall outside that demographic, then the film is not for you. This is a film aimed at women in particular, especially fans of Evanovich's novels. That means it's unlikely the average guy is going to want to sit through this film. Guy or not, viewers looking for something new will also be disappointed. One for the Money is a formulaic crime tale, wholly uninterested in adding anything new to the genre. Thinking about the film outside of its genre will only give you a headache. Plum is a badass, tough gal who can obviously handle herself, but, of course, she moons over the guy she's supposed to catch. Logic, of course, isn't totally unimportant to the film, but if you're looking for an airtight mystery, this isn't the film for you.
One for the Money should have been a total triumph. A beloved female heroine, a source franchise with legs, and a great actress to pull it all together in Katherine Heigl should have made the flick an instant hit. Though lots of viewers will likely enjoy this first Stephanie Plum outing, there's nothing about the film that makes it stand out from the rest of the genre pack. The quality of this Blu-ray makes it easy to recommend to fans of the film, and even the curious who rent the film will at least enjoy the look of the film.
Not guilty, though the court feels the film could have been better.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.