The Bounty Hunter

Release Date: March 19, 2010

Oopsie! You caught me doing something goofy!

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
79/123 David Mumpower A decent first 40 minutes transforms into a monotous, grueling final hour.
170/190 Max Braden Butler may be a decent action star but he can't quite carry a romantic comedy.

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Jennifer Aniston has led a charmed career, by most standards. I say that because a lot of people seem to feel that she hasn’t. As a cast member of one of the most successful television series in history, she faced the same thankless dilemma as many an actor before her. Once the farewell episode is in the can, the exposure dies down and the rest of your life begins, the realization dawns that a lot of the people who used to love you now love to mock you because of your inability to remain the most popular person on the planet. Few people realize just how unusual it is to achieve that level of success, and it is unrealistic to expect it to last indefinitely or to ever duplicate it. There are plenty of superstars in Hollywood, but they’re vastly outnumbered by the people who spend their careers in supporting roles, making soup commercials or playing corpses on CSI: Miami. Nobody would have been surprised had Aniston faded into obscurity or ended up making direct-to-DVD films for the rest of her career. But she’s managed to transition to a successful film career and has largely managed to remain professionally relevant since the end of Friends. Yet despite being the most successful of the show’s former cast by far, a cloud continues to hang over her career as though she isn’t. Part of it could be the incessant public perception that Aniston’s personal life is in turmoil, and that she has put her career ahead of "settling down" with someone. Her well probed romantic life adds to the speculation, leading people to view her as though she’s a character in one of her own romantic comedies, rather than a real person.

Gerard Butler’s path has been considerably less dramatic, despite having hovered on the edge of stardom his entire career. Frequently cast as a lead over the years, his cavalier good looks and persuasive screen presence seemed to make his eventual success a foregone conclusion. But despite receiving steady work and mostly positive exposure over his career, Butler seemed to be permanently behind the eight ball - some said his time would come, while others snickered that he looked too much like Russell Crowe. And then a surprise smash hit called 300 made him an instant icon; suddenly the former King Leonidas is everywhere, as though someone decided to solve Butler’s problems by replacing Russell Crowe with a younger model. Right now new roles are plentiful and interest in Butler is high. Women adore him and men wish they could be more like him, despite not knowing him. So, as one of the most prominent leading men in Hollywood, it seemed almost inevitable that Butler would eventually end up alongside Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy. For two actors whose fans often cannot seem to separate them from their characters, the pairing seems almost ironic.

My initial reaction to the news was admittedly cynical. It might be an exaggeration to say that it is a leading man’s rite of passage to appear in a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t seem that way sometimes. Just as in life, Aniston’s on screen alter ego does seem to wander into one star crossed relationship after another. The Bounty Hunter, of course, is no exception. Here, Aniston and Butler play a pair of bitter ex lovers – the kind that make you wonder what they ever originally saw in one another. Milo (Butler) is an underemployed bounty hunter whose life appears to be in an uncontrolled spin. Nicole (Aniston) is a reporter working on a murder investigation that someone clearly does not want investigated. After learning that Nicole is his next bounty, Milo and Nicole are reunited, picking up their acerbic feud right where it left off. But eventually, Milo finds that the story Nicole has been working on has caught up to her. Her problems have become his, and despite their differing goals and mutual distrust, they’re going to have to work together to survive. No doubt they’ll find that they make a good team and that the smoldering chemistry between them makes it hard to resist one another. But that’s just a guess.

Of course, this will sound familiar to a lot of people. After all, a long time rom-com staple has been the couple who seemingly despises one another, only to have been in love the whole time. You might even find yourself wondering whether Aniston just made a film like that a few years ago with Vince Vaughn. But I get the idea that there’s something different about The Bounty Hunter. I’ve seen the trailer for it in theaters several times, and while it wasn’t that funny, I couldn’t help but notice that it had people almost choking with laughter. Trailers for The Break-Up had a similar uproarious vibe but once that film turned its couple away from one another, it didn’t quite take the course we all expected it to. The Bounty Hunter looks to be more of a romantic road movie-slash-action comedy, as if someone let Guy Ritchie have his way with a remake of It Happened One Night. And unlike The Break Up, the two leads here look appealing together. The obvious occurred to me as I sat in the theater observing reactions to this trailer - one of the reasons people flock to romantic comedies is because they want to see the protagonists together. People want to see Gerard Butler and Jennifer Anniston together. For two minutes and 30 seconds, an amusing but otherwise unremarkable trailer united the entire theater in mutual delight.
This might sound crazy to you, but I firmly believe it is because people love Jennifer Aniston, and have mistaken her real life for one of her movies. They really want her to find Mister Right, and they really want it to be Gerard Butler. Part of what makes a truly good romantic comedy work is when you feel this way about the cast, and something tells me that whether or not The Bounty Hunter turns out to be a great film or a not so great film, initial interest will at least be high. Neither Butler nor Aniston really need any professional help, but regardless of where you are in the Hollywood food chain, nothing quite does it for your career like a breakout comedy. If The Bounty Hunter does as well as some of the advance screenings suggest it might, nobody will ever feel sorry for Jennifer Aniston, or confuse Gerard Butler with Russell Crowe – ever again. (Bruce Hall/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Bounty Hunter
Main Cast Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler
Supporting Cast Jason Sudeikis, Dorian Missick, Joel Marsh Garland, Christine Baranski
Director Andy Tennant
Screenwriter Sarah Thorp
Distributor Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Rating PG-13
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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