(by Dustin Putman
"The Bounty Hunter" has a solid premise from which to jump off from, but the treatment it receives courtesy of director Andy Tennant (2008's "Fool's Gold") and screenwriter Sarah Thorp (2004's "Twisted") is all wrong, wrong, wrong. Overplotted, disjointed and longwinded, the film is a slow, desperate slog to a conclusion both obvious and disingenuous. As a romantic comedy, it is ceaselessly unpleasant enough to make anyone consider the allure of living the rest of his or her days in asexual solitude. As an action-thriller, which it really has no business being, the movie is a disaster of uninteresting bad guys and even less interesting motives. Audiences who seek out "The Bounty Hunter" no doubt are in it to see Jennifer Aniston (2009's "Love Happens") and Gerard Butler (2009's "The Ugly Truth") bicker, spar, and then fall in love. When the film isn't concentrating on half-baked action scenes and the thugs out to get them, the leads squeak in some time to do these three things—just not convincingly or with the advantage of good writing. Article continues below
When news reporter Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston), out on bail for a semi-bogus charge of assaulting a police officer, misses her court date in lieu of investigating a story on a mysterious suicide that may actually have been a homicide, a bench warrant is issued for her arrest. Enter Nicole's ex-husband Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler), a bounty hunter who is offered five thousand dollars to arrest her and bring her into custody. Milo is only too thrilled to take the job, but the path to actually delivering Nicole to the police station sends them on a wild journey across the state of New Jersey. When the shady characters behind Nicole's story catch wind of her sleuthing, they come knocking. So, too, do some loan sharks whom Milo owes a gambling debt to. With their very lives now on the line, they have no choice but to team up despite barely being able to coexist in the same room together.
Jennifer Aniston is an underrated actress of immense charisma and appeal (she's not bad to look at, either). Gerard Butler seems like a man's man, the kind you'd like to hang out and have a beer with (he's also pretty darn handsome). Both of them are left stranded without a paddle in "The Bounty Hunter," forced into a stupid, overcooked plot that can't even afford them one scene where their divorced characters reconnect to the reason why they fell in love in the first place. Instead, Milo is petty and childish, mistreating Nicole to an unforgivable degree as he locks her in the trunk, handcuffs her to various things, ransacks her apartment, and physically assaults her. Nicole responds by calling him a cavalcade of names, disdain clinging to her every word. Not only do these two not have chemistry, but they arguably should move to opposite sides of the country. Though painfully clear that they aren't meant for each other, the two of them abruptly change their ways and start getting lovey-dovey as the third act settles in and the script demands that they end up together. The trouble is that their relationship is only believable when they are actively hating each other.
Potentially comic situations arise and are promptly wasted away at a shocking rate, whether it be a scene where Nicole and Milo pose as a couple at a country club, go to stay at a cozy inn, chase each other on foot and by pedicab, or end up sharing a bed (with Nicole cuffed to the post, naturally) in Atlantic City. Wit and humor are nowhere in sight, the film bogging itself down in crime caper affairs and worthless set-pieces set on a golf course and in a warehouse. Exposition scenes go on and on, building fatigue and stopping the pace dead in its tracks. Supporting talents, like Christine Baranski (2008's "Mamma Mia!") as Nicole's brassy mother, Siobhan Fallon Hogan (2009's "New in Town") as a bail bondsman's wife, Jason Sudeikis (2008's "The Rocker") as a smothering coworker with eyes for Nicole, and Carol Kane (2008's "Four Christmases") as an innkeeper are wasted to the point of being figuratively massacred. As for stars Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, they've both seen better days and meatier roles. Aniston gets a little mileage out of her comedic abilities and remains fairly likable for a woman fleeing from the law, while Butler delights in a thick layer of smarminess.
A few spare moments in "The Bounty Hunter" comes alive thanks to inspired song selections (one to The Rolling Stones' "Hang Fire," the other to Ke$ha's "TiK-ToK"), and the setup's not half-bad, but where things go from there could test anybody's patience. Vacant of charm, originality, and focus, the narrative is all over the place and never figures out what it wants to be. A love story? A crime thriller? A dark comedy? An action shoot-'em-up? It works as none of the above and doesn't seem to try. In return, the viewer is left overloaded and unengaged. By the end, a short stint in jail was starting to seem mighty preferable.