The Bounty Hunter: Random Notes on a Terrible Film
Sometimes, the parts of the whole are more worth noting than the whole itself. If you’ve seen the trailer for The Bounty Hunter, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, you already know literally everything that’s going to happen in this film in terms of plot. You also already know, if you have half a brain, that this film was somewhat doomed from the outset. Any commercial that features so much rampant tackling and crotch-punching is unlikely to be a true expression of cinematic brilliance. Did it even deliver any form of entertainment, even on the cheapest and basest level? No, it doesn’t, and I don’t feel like writing the obvious reasons why in paragraph form. Instead of writing a full review of The Bounty Hunter, let me instead list the notes I wrote during the film, helpful reminders I jotted down of what made this film so awful.
– We begin with wacky freeze frame labels that point arrows to our lead characters identifying them as a wanted felon and a bounty hunter, as they tackle and punch each other in the groin. If this is our intro to these characters, does it really matter who they are or why they’re punching each other in the groin?
– This is immediately followed by two more punches to the groin, and Gerard Butler began chasing a man on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam. We are only three minutes in.
– When Jennifer Aniston appears, we are given three different cues, visual or auditory, that she is a desirable woman. It reeks of desperation, as if the studio needs to convince us that Aniston is a “hot” movie star.
– Jason Sudeikis appears as a horny co-worker of Aniston’s. His mustache is funnier than his lines.
– Gerard Butler has a black friend who whines about having to “bail yo ass” out of jail and uses double negatives like “ain’t no” with great regularity.
– There’s a cute young bartender who Jennifer Aniston asks to listen around for information about a suicide case. There is a zero percent chance he fails to find highly potent information, and an even smaller percent chance he lives.
– In a sign of typical Hollywood originality, Jeff Garlin, famous for playing the agent with the nagging wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm, plays a bail bondsman with a nagging wife here.
– A montage over a wacky blues song about an awful ex-wife consists of Butler breaking into Aniston’s apartment, dragging muddy feet on her white carpet (ha ha?), dropping her toothbrush in the toilet bowl, and then eating Doritos (Product Placement #1) while deleting Weeds and 30 Rock off her TiVo (Product Placement #2). Ooh, deleting from a TiVo! How cruel! All this moment made me do was make me wish I was watching one of those two far-better-written shows.
– Ah, the first cheap and manipulative moment happens when Aniston enters her apartment and Butler hears her. They sneak around the apartment, never seeing one another, but it’s leading up to them hitting each other in the face. Then, as they hop around the corner to confront each other… surprise! Aniston’s not in her apartment after all, she’s in a different one! The director just cross-cut these two scenes together to make us think there was going to be a moment of conflict. Why? Because he knew we’d be bored.
– Awkward racial stereotype moment #2: when Aniston breaks into Jimmy’s apartment, she tells Jimmy’s mom that she’s his girlfriend. To which the mom replies, “You’re Laquisha?” Then Aniston, who at one point was the highest paid comedy actress on television, has to say with a straight face, “Yep. I’m Laquisha. Mmhmm.”
– Some really painful banter between Sudeikis and Butler, where Sudeikis tells him what Aniston hates about him, and Butler responds angrily. Closest thing to a joke in this extended scene: when Butler calls Sudeikis “Geraldo,” meaning that even the filmmaker knows the funniest thing about this character is his mustache.
– You know, they put Jennifer Aniston in heels, low cut tops, and leggy skirts and dresses in a vain attempt to make her look under the age of 40, but the director does her no favors. By crosscutting between Jennifer Aniston running and a horse racing, he either is being blissfully ignorant or really snarky.
– If there’s one thing I am going to give this film credit for, it’s casting the woefully underused and always slightly hammy Peter Greene as the villain. He is chewing his gum in this film like his life depends on it.
– Gerard Butler, between this and The Ugly Truth, is apparently Hollywood’s go-to lead when they need an actor who will do nothing but laugh delightedly as he says and does immature things. He’s literally been doing nothing but laughing the last 15 minutes of this film.
– And in a tragic twist of fate, Cathy Moriarty, who at one point starred opposite Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, just appeared as Irene who is trying to collect Butler’s gambling debt. Sample dialogue: “This is not good. We let this bum slide, people are gonna start thinkin’ Irene’s gone soft!”
– The plot gets stupider. Apparently, they needed more hijinks, so Aniston convinces Butler to stop off to do some gambling (whaaaa?) by tricking him, saying the old him could turn $500 into $10,000, but he couldn’t anymore. So, like any other unrealistic boneheaded cartoon character, he stops to go do it. The silence in the theater is deafening.
– First smile of the film: Jason Sudeikis, trying to free Aniston from the car, is then run into by Irene’s thugs. He doesn’t know they’re thugs, so he pretends it’s his car (mistaken identity! classic comedy element!). He tries bragging about it, and claims, “Yeah, it was once used in an Ice Cube video.” It’s not that funny, but as a starving man who spies the slightest morsel of unspoiled meat, I will cling to it.
– There’s no hint of love between these characters. But they’re gambling together! I bet they end up together in the end!
– No one runs like a regular person in this film. They all run with their knees high and their eyes bulging out of their head. It’s like they watched a Scooby Doo cartoon as research.
– Butler scoots the car in reverse quickly when Aniston’s trying to get in. He promises he won’t do it again. She waits a painfully long time, considering what we know is inevitably going to happen. He scoots the car forward as she tries to get in. He laughs and says, “I can’t believe you fell for the old ‘get in the car’ trick!” Emphasis on old.
– A boring action sequence where they get shot at results in them going to a country club pretending to be together in order to look for the guy that just tried to kill them. Why would he bring her along on this hunt? Why would they assume a professional killer good enough to remove pin number and registration from his car is going to go directly to the place identified on the golf clubs he had in the back seat? Why am I still watching?
– The most unconvincing con in the world, meant to be very unconvincing in order to try to wring a few laughs out of us, results in them entering the country club, solely because the plot dictates, not because of logic.
– Carol Kane, God bless her, is here as the owner of a honeymoon cabin, here only because the main characters have no real love connection, so she comes out to tell us about how the two of them were the most madly in love couple to ever stay at her cabin. It’s sweet, if totally implausible.
– Thank you, Christine Baranski, for playing the same old boozehound you always play. That little vaudeville touch that you provide gave me the second smile of the film.
– A 10-minute stretch of boring bad romantic dialogue, followed by the obvious one-character-overhearing-an-out-of-context-phone-conversation-which-then-turns-them-off routine. Sigh. I can’t believe I have so much of this movie left.
– Question: someone wants to murder you. Do you (a) try to avoid them, or (b) go by yourself to his place of employment without telling anyone where you are and carrying no weapon to defend yourself against this known professional killer? I… would probably go with Option A.
– Third smile: the way the actor playing one of Irene’s thugs says to Jennifer Aniston: “Your hair… shimmers… like sunlight… on the ocean.”
– Jennifer Aniston plays the dumbest character in any movie I’ve ever seen. She’s trying to sneak around while a guy with a gun is trying to murder her, and her heels keep clicking loudly. The director clearly thinks this is funny, but you’d think at ANY point, it would occur to her to take the damn shoes off!
– Sassy black cop gets to say “goddamn” and “yo’ ass” one more time around before the film ends. Saints be praised!