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The Bounty Hunter mostly wants to be Mr. And Mrs. Smith, a questionable goal it fails at miserably, but it’s in the rare moments it tries to be State Of Play that it truly becomes unwatchable. It’s like screenwriter Sarah Thorp tried to paraphrase the cliff notes of You’ve Got Mail in between season five episodes of The Wire and YouTube clips of Dog the Bounty Hunter and Beth Chapman arguing about how many minutes it’s been since he had his last cigarette. The results are a mess of tired retreads and illogical shots at the moon, but since we’re already here, let me explain.
Here’s what the plot of The Bounty Hunter should have been: Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) is an ex-police officer now working as a bounty hunter. His ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) is a journalist who misses her court date, prompting her bail bondsman (Jeff Garlin) to send Milo after her. They both end up in Atlantic City. They play craps at the casino. He gets tasered; she steals a rickshaw; wacky hijinks ensue. They slowly fall in and out of love as they occasionally reconnect, mostly to set up elaborate schemes to screw each other over.
Here’s what the plot of The Bounty Hunter is: Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) is an ex-police officer now working as a bounty hunter. His ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), a busy career girl journalist inexplicably obsessed with a recent suicide, misses her court date because a local bartender/ informant vaguely tells her he has information about the case she‘s working on. This missed court date prompts her bail bondsman (Jeff Garlin) to send her ex-husband after her, which is pretty convenient for Milo since a rogue bounty hunter is after him because of gambling debts he’s accrued. Nicole’s famous singer mother Kitty (Christine Baranski) tells Milo Nicole is in Atlantic City; so, he follows, followed closely by a lovestruck coworker of Nicole’s (Jason Sudeikis) who is mistakenly followed by rogue bounty hunters who mistakenly think he’s Milo. They’re followed by Earl (Redfoot from The Usual Suspects), a tattoo artist and former police officer who has kidnapped the local bartender/ informant. Milo and Nicole play craps at a local casino, a bad move considering Milo’s gambling problem. He gets tasered; she steals a rickshaw; illogical timewasters ensue. They remain out of love as they romp through tired, clichéd schemes until falling back in love with reckless abandon.
Here. Now. This. Romance:
You don’t need to invert time like in 500 Days Of Summer. You don’t need a prime Billy Crystal like in When Harry Met Sally. You don’t need fallen angels, AOL 5.0 or words that rhyme with peanut. The only thing you need for romance to work is two people the audience cares about enough to smile when they fall in love. From impromptu song reach-arounds in Shortbus to cum-stained hair in There’s Something About Mary, romance doesn’t need to be wholesome to be meaningful. It doesn’t need to be old, it doesn’t need to be new. It doesn’t need to be borrowed, it doesn’t need to be blue. It just needs to be real, and as romance grows and Rosemary goes, The Bounty Hunter is hollow, forced and flat, a character study of selfish, annoying two-dimensional goons not worth rooting for. Not even worth rooting against.
Here. Now. This. Comedy:
There are two types of comedies. We’ll call them the Arrested Development comedies and the Yes, Dear comedies. Arrested Development comedies don’t tell the audience what’s funny. They don’t use laugh tracks, quick cuts or obvious linguistic set-ups. They just let the characters talk, let the situations speak for themselves and hope the audience finds their way. Yes, Dear comedies implement tried and true premises and formats, allowing the audiences to react and slowly build up to the one-liner. The Bounty Hunter weaves through both comedy styles like a second-rate, third-grade class clown trying to perfect timing. It’s the type of comedy that shows the obese rogue bounty hunting stopping to get a sandwich but doesn’t linger long enough to explain whether the other characters think this is funny. It’s as if the movie is telling you hey, there’s a fat guy and food and that’s funny, right? It’s the type of comedy that halfway through a scene decides maybe an obvious faux-romantic score would increase the hilarity. It’s as if the movie is telling you hey, there’s a lover’s sonata playing in the background but you know she’s just playing and ohh ohh this isn’t going to end as the music implies….
Sitting through The Bounty Hunter is like watching an awkward white, seven-foot center trying to handle the basketball at the top of the key. He knows he’s supposed to stand under the basket and take up space, finger role in the occasional offensive rebound. He knows, at any given time, he’s the least athletic dude on the floor, but sometimes he needs to brick a twenty-three footer to remind himself why the coach told him to stand under the basket with his hands up and take up space in the lane. You see what happens Jennifer Aniston? You see what happens Gerard Butler? Do you see what happens when you throw up twenty-three footers? We’re used to your shitty movies by now, but taking Jeff Garlin and Jason Sudeikis under the bus with you? Not cool.