One for the Money

Ealasaid/ January 30, 2012/ Movie Reviews and Features

Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Sherri Shepherd, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo
Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity

“One for the Money” seemes to be getting treated like a red-headed stepchild by its production companies — preview screenings for critics were delayed or simply not held, and although it’s a light-hearted action comedy, it’s being released in the no-man’s-land cinematic tundra of late January. It’s a shame, because this charming little film is a lot of fun.

Jersey girl Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) is divorced, unemployed, and facing eviction. She blackmails her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fichler) into giving her a job as a bounty hunter at his bail bonds company. She’s supposed to focus on easy, civil cases, the kinds of bail-jumpers who are absent-minded or a little touched. Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), who did Stephanie wrong back in high school is among the offenders, and she insists on going after him even though he’s a cop on the run from a murder charge and she’s clearly out of her league.

In the course of tracking Joe down, Stephanie winds up well in over her head. The incident that got him labeled a murderer is more than a little fishy, and when possible witnesses start turning up dead and Stephanie starts getting threats, it seems like time to bow out and leave it to the pros. Stephanie is in desperate need of cash (and clearly has a soft spot for Joe, in spite of having been so angry at him in high school that she hit him with a car), and refuses to quit. With top bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) as her coach, she is determined to bring Joe in.

Heigl is great, even if her Jersey accent slips from time to time. Stephanie is a little ditzy, a little (okay, a lot) disorganized — the kind of gal who has to dig around in her enormous purse until she finds her gun — but she’s also incredibly lucky and thoroughly tenacious. Once she sets her mind on something, she won’t let it go, and Heigl makes us believe in and sympathize with her. The supporting cast are all solid, though fans of the books will likely quibble with some of the casting choices (it’s hard to argue with Grandma Mazur, though. She’s too pretty, but is played by the one and only Debbie Reynolds).

What really makes “One for the Money” succeed as an adaptation is that it does a good job capturing the tone of the book and the broad strokes of the characters’ personalities. Ranger doesn’t look like the guy I’ve been seeing in my head all these years, but Sunjata gets the attitude right, and that’s what counts. There are plenty of scenes straight out of the book, including my favorite (Grandma vs. the turkey!), too.

Hollywood adaptations of beloved books are a notorious minefield, and nobody is going to be 100% happy with them. If you go in with low expectations, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. If, however, you’re expecting a page-by-page film of the book, you’ll be disappointed.

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