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By Brian Lafferty

March 19, 2010 (San Diego's East County) -- The Bounty Hunter has, on paper, an interesting concept for a romantic comedy: a journalist (Jennifer Aniston) on trial for assault skips bail to help a snitch, who has information about a suicide case she’s investigating. Before they can meet, the snitch is kidnapped. Her ex-husband (Gerard Butler) is offered five grand to bring her back. As the lights went down and the projector ground to life, I thought this premise, contrived as it may be, could deliver some laughs. I wish I could say that was the case.

This is the type of movie you try to like and try as you might, you can’t. I gave it every chance but the film made it next to impossible for me to do so. Many of the flaws are at the screenwriting level. The Bounty Hunter tries to juggle two plots: the romance brewing between the two leads and the mystery that Aniston tries to solve.

The romance plot is the most problematic. The biggest flaw is that it is boring. The film runs too long, even at one hour and fifty minutes. Any scenes not involving the mystery, which are numerous, lack excitement. There is nothing romantic or comedic about the relationship between Aniston and Butler. They have no chemistry, which makes whatever romance there is less than believable. This is compounded by the fact that this plotline takes up the majority of the movie. I saw this movie in a packed theater. There were long stretches of silence, almost all of it during these scenes. It got really eerie after a while.

I found myself more intrigued by the mystery but that plot contains three fatal flaws of its own. For one thing, it’s constantly overshadowed by the romance plot and doesn’t have room to grow. Second, we get nothing but cliches, including car chases, shootouts, and a cop who may be on the wrong side of the law. Not only that but the script is so inept that for almost the entire movie I was lost and confused.

About halfway into the movie, Aniston gets a call from someone at work. She’s told that Bobby, a cop, was the one who ruled that the death she was investigating was a suicide, even though evidence points to it being a murder. This strongly suggests that Bobby, who is established as being a good buddy of her ex-husband, may be on the wrong side of the law.

The problem? I had no idea who this Bobby was. I tend to think I’m good with names and faces. But this character is only seen in two or three small scenes up to that point. Even if his name was mentioned, he had so little screen time I couldn’t put a face on him. Until the last ten minutes I kept asking myself, “Who’s Bobby?” By the end I didn’t care how the movie turned out.

There are almost no laughs in The Bounty Hunter. It’s hard to laugh when the story is confusing, incomprehensible, boring, and the humor predictable. The use of tasers set to maximum, golf cart chases, being locked in the trunk, and the many scenes involving handcuffs are just a few of many examples of strained attempts at getting a laugh. As I kept watching, I thought of every scene as a fork in the road, with one road marked “Funny” and the other marked “Not Funny.” The movie constantly takes the “Not Funny” route.

A Columbia Pictures release.  Director:  Andy Tennant.  Screenplay: Sarah Thorp.  Original Music:  George Fenton.  Cinematography:  Oliver Bokelberg.  Cast:  Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Jason Sudeikis, Cathy Moriarty, and Christine Baranski.  Runtime:  110 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Brian Lafferty welcomes letters at brian@eastcountymagazine.org.  You can also follow him on Twitter:  @BrianLaff


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