Directed by: Andy Tennant
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick
Rated: PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence.
“The Bounty Hunter” is another romantic comedy (emphasis on “comedy”) from Andy Tennant (“Hitch,” “Fool’s Gold”). This is standard Hollywood fluff. It’s trying to entertain, and if you’re willing to disengage your brain, it works.
Milo (Gerard Butler) is a former cop who’s just getting by as a bounty hunter. When he learns his next target is his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), he’s more than pleased. He figures it’ll be an easy job — and s thoroughly satisfying one, since their split is the reason he drank so much he got booted off the force. What he doesn’t know is that Nicole’s job as an investigative journalist has made her the target of some very unpleasant people. His simple pick-her-up-and-take-her-in plan is quickly derailed when someone tries to kill her. When he learns that her investigation has revealed their mutual friend Bobby (Dorian Missick) as a likely suspect for a murder, he decides to join her in trying to solve the case before taking her in.
It’s a fairly ludicrous story, but Butler and Aniston have good chemistry as ex-spouses who are still crazy about each other but drive each other up the wall, and their comic timing is good enough to make the silliness entertaining. Milo and Nicole know each other in that way you only get from being married and then going through an unpleasant divorce. They know each other’s hangups and buttons, and he is happy to use his knowledge to give her a hard time.
Butler’s American accent (he’s a native of Scotland) is surprisingly good, and he delivers competently as a guy who is both attractive and believable as someone who would drive his spouse crazy. Aniston likewise comes through as a career-driven, intelligent woman who can’t help letting Milo get under her skin.
The secondary characters are all larger than life and although they’re stock characters, they’re well done. Milo’s boss is a harried guy whose kids are scamps. His secretary snaps her gum, wears loud makeup, and is several years past her ability to care about customer service. Nicole’s mother, Kitty (Christine Baranski) is a singer in Atlantic City who has no shame and slams her drinks while giving her daughter advice. One of Nicole’s coworkers, Stewart (Jason Sudeikis), is convinced their drunken makeout session at a company party means they have a Serious Relationship, and is always pestering her for a date. The bad guys are dirty, no-good thugs — but their minions are basically decent guys who provide some extra laughs.
The pacing only drags occasionally. For the most part, the film moves easily between silly comedy, snarky dialog, and exciting (and mostly bloodless) action. Although she’s generally running around in high heels, Nicole is smart, resourceful, and brave (although sometimes her bravery is because she’s ignoring the danger out of sheer pigheadedness) and she holds her own pretty darn well for a heroine in a romantic comedy.
This isn’t a work of great art, but it’s not trying to be. If the trailers made you chuckle and you found the central couple charming, it’s worth checking out. If you want realism, character development, and any form of intellectual engagement, go elsewhere.