It’s hard to believe, but we are currently approaching the ten year anniversary of the release of The Bounty Hunter; how are you planning to celebrate? Taking a second look at this widely maligned rom-com, it’s something of a time capsule; yes, everyone has mobile phones, and the internet exists, but Andy Tennants’s film seems to hark back to screwball comedies of the 1930’s, or even road movies from the 1970’s.
Andy Tennant is something of a secret success; between 1995 and 2010, he made a series of rom-coms which made a billion dollars worldwide, despite the fact you could sit next to the director in an airport lounge and be unaware of his presence. And yet his films are not anonymous, and somewhere between Sweet Home Alabama and Fools Gold, there’s an emerging interest in character and story that serves him well. Working from a script by Sarah Thorp, he mines a scuzzy yet homespun appeal from two popular leads here.
Gerry Butler, of course, is bounty hunter Milo Boyd, seen interrupting a Fourth-of July parade in an all-action opening that sees him at work, chasing down a perp just as he used to do when he was a cop. But that was a while ago, when he was married to Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), who has divorced him with extreme prejudice. She’s got some traffic violations and has neglected to lawyer-up appropriately, so Milo is delighted to have the fun of tracking down his ex-wife. But he doesn’t reckon of the case she’s investigating as a journalist, which involves her with all kind of nefarious characters.
And of course, Milo and Nicole fall in love, while bullets fly and SUV’s coast through the air. There’s old school support from Carol Kane and Christine Baranski, and an early, creepy turn from SNL’s Jason Sudeikis. Butler hasn’t yet developed his gruff exoskeleton, and plays vulnerable to good effect, but Aniston is the wheel the whole operation pivots on. With her TV smarts, a film career has seemed somewhat effortless, and yet films liken The Good Girl and Cake demonstrated that she could push the Americas sweetheart act in diverse ways.
The Bounty Hunter is the kind of film cineastes reject and audiences lap up without a thought. The thriller mechanics are nothing new, and the film relies of the slippery exchanges between Butler and Aniston, who both have a good measure of the material. Sometime you just need to chill while a movie does the work for you; The Bounty Hunter aims for the low-hanging fruit and doesn’t miss.