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Mutiny Should be Declared on the Joyless Bounty Hunter

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2010 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Mutiny Should be Declared on the Joyless <i>Bounty Hunter</i>

DVD Release Date:  July 13, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  March 19, 2010
Rating:  PG-13 (for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence)
Genre:  Romantic drama
Run Time:  110 min.
Director:  Andy Tennant
Actors:  Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Christine Baranski, Siobhan Fallon, Peter Greene, Adam Rose, Dorian Missick, David Costabile, Jason Sudeikis

Once upon a time, the leading men in romantic comedies made grand, sweeping gestures to eventually win over their women … and they weren't wearing ugly flannel shirts a la Gerard Butler while doing so.

Back when dial-up was the Internet connection of choice in You've Got Mail, Joe Fox wooed Kathleen Kelly by e-mail with promises of bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils.

In Love Actually, an adorable fourth grader (with his dad's blessing) dodged airport security and risked getting arrested so he could tell the prettiest girl in school that he loved her before she flew from London to New York.

Lastly, who can forget in Say Anything when John Cusack's much-beloved Lloyd Dobler held up that clunky boom-box in a park (yeah, we're not talking a lightweight iPod here) so his sweetie could hear their song, Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," from her bedroom window?

These days, however, getting the girl looks a little different with Butler on the scene. Officially kicking Mr. Sensitive to the curb, his character's idea of a fun night involves throwing his ex in the trunk and carting her off to jail for a cool 20k in The Bounty Hunter.

While anyone who's sat through countless rom-coms can certainly appreciate the effort to switch things up (for the record, there's no meet-cute, no inevitable mix-up that'll briefly tear the couple apart and no requisite "big speech" at film's end where the guy declares his love with flowers or an engagement ring in hand), there's still nothing beguiling or particularly inventive about The Bounty Hunter. If anything, it's just an excuse to parade Jennifer Aniston's uncanny knack for running in heels without ruining her enviable tresses in the process.

And given all the tabloid speculation about Aniston and Butler dating in real life, well, it's amazing how little chemistry this pair actually has on-screen. Sure, they constantly bicker and snip at each other to infinitely annoying levels per the script's request (usually code for "I have a huge crush on you"), but there's still nothing playfully feisty or remotely charming about these exes with an ax to grind.

The main problem with the romantic aspect of The Bounty Hunter is the failure to establish the couple in question's relationship in the first place. Through all the double-crossing, handcuffing and numerous scenes where they're running away from each other, we're supposed to be hoping that Milo (Butler) and Nicole (Aniston) will get past their differences and fall back in love. The only trouble is we don't know what brought them together or what tore them apart.

Sure, there are a few fleeting references to Milo being nothing but trouble, and Nicole being an ambitious journalist who often worked late, but nothing more revelatory.

When romance runs thin, the whole "caper" part of the story doesn't really deliver either. Not only does it stretch the bounds of believability with Nicole being a "convicted felon" for a minor infraction (she missed a court date for a traffic accident that somehow segued into an assaulting-an-officer charge), but that Milo, a former police officer, would just happen to be the "bounty hunter" who's charged with making sure she's punished for skipping bail.

Sandwiched in between these already murky waters, the story then takes an unexpected His Girl Friday turn (without the delightful, madcap charm, naturally) when Milo helps Nicole crack a huge story she's working on involving murder and some shady police work. While this new plot development definitely helps pad the film's already way-too-long running time, it adds little to the bottom line.

The only addition that prevents The Bounty Hunter from being a total waste of time is the comedic efforts of a few scene-stealing supporting players. Not only is Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) hilarious as Nicole's awkward co-worker who believes that he and Nicole are in a relationship (he misinterpreted a drunken kiss they shared at the Christmas party), but Nicole's showgirl mom, played by the always-funny Christine Baranski, provides a healthy dose of comic relief in what's a mostly unfunny affair.

Even those brief glimpses of light can't lift The Bounty Hunter from rom-com darkness, though. In fact, it's downright painful watching Butler's overgrown frat-boy shtick in action. SPOILER ALERT: After all, if a leading man's idea of lifelong bliss begins with punching a police officer so he can make out with his lady love in the slammer, well, that certainly makes anyone miss the grander romantic gestures of movies past.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  There's plenty of social drinking (including several scenes in bars and an instance where Milo gets very drunk), and drug theft figures into the murder plot.

  • Language/Profanity:  Multiple instances where God's name is paired with da—, plus a slew of other profanities.

  • Sex/Nudity:  Plenty of sexual innuendos, crude references to genitals and double entendres scattered throughout. During a scene in a strip club, a couple of women's bare bottoms are shown, not to mention ample cleavage. For most of the movie, Nicole runs around in a very tight skirt and blouse, and two men ask to see her breasts in exchange for escape from a sticky situation. Both Milo and Nicole are handcuffed to a bed at different times, and upon discovering Nicole chained up, a maid makes comments about all the strange fetishes she's seen while cleaning hotel rooms. At one point, Nicole straddles and tries to seduce Milo to win her freedom, but he ends up getting the gun anyway.

  • Violence:  Milo gets punched in the groin area a couple of times and is later tasered by Nicole. Other characters are tied up, have their legs broken and are injected with a horse tranquilizer. There's also a car chase scene that results in a vehicle rolling over on the road. Some gunplay also figures in, and there's talk about committing suicide because it relates to a case that Nicole is investigating for a news story.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.