An investigative journalist jumps bail, only to find the bounty hunter on her trail is her ex-husband.
The Bounty Hunter is lazily written, with a stupid plot. He’s a loser. She’s orange. And yet I gave this inanity 2.5 stars. And I’m now so chin-strokingly worthy, I didn’t even lob it an extra half-star for that scene where Gerard Butler comes out of the bathroom naked but for a white towel round his waist. Oh wait I did.
The Bounty Hunter came out in 2010, when we were still allowed to fetishise hot men in movies without getting a sanctimonious bollocking on Twitter. Sadly I missed it at the cinema, though as I had a baby at the time I missed everything at the cinema. In fact I missed everything everywhere. Now that baby is a hulking teen, emerging only to take up residence in the food cupboards like David Attenborough in a sand dune following up a sighting of a rare puffin, I can finally start working through my “movie classics to watch” list.
But first, The Bounty Hunter.
Like many of Butler’s films it was critically panned but a commercial success, and he then ended up dating his co-star. (Or maybe he doesn’t actually do that and it just seems like he does.)
Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter for The New York Post, is investigating the suspicious death of one Walter Lilley, who dived off the top of a building. The police have ruled it a suicide, but she is unconvinced. Now her local informant, Jimmy, has gone missing; but when she skips her own bail hearing to try to find him, a warrant is put out for her arrest. Her ex-husband Milo (Butler), once a cop himself, now a bounty hunter, is delighted to get the job, setting about tracking her down so he can haul her to prison while also pocketing five grand.
And he needs that money, as the once-lucky Milo owes $11,000 in a gambling debt to a hard-edged bookmaker called Irene, who’s happy to have her goons break a few kneecaps to get what’s due. Meanwhile Nicole is being chased by a mysterious SUV driver who was at the scene of Walter’s death, and she’s soon convinced that not only are the police involved but possibly even Milo’s cop bestie Bobby Jenkins (Dorian Missick).
I wouldn’t describe the plot as complex. Milo tracks Nicole down to the races, she runs away, he catches her, she runs away, he catches her, etc etc until they solve the suspicious “suicide” and also realise they truly love each other (they can’t run away at the end as they’re both in police custody).
Christine Baranski plays Nicole’s mother Kitty, a glamorous Atlantic City hotel owner with a bit of a thing for Milo. The best kind of riddle-talking lady oracle — a sexy, middle aged one — she informs Milo that Nicole just wants to be loved by her man, along with the news that his ex has gone “somewhere to suck up some luck”, which Milo knows means the racecourse.
It’s violent and old-fashioned. Passers by ignore them as he throws her over his shoulder before locking her in the boot of his vintage Oldsmobile Delta. He threatens to shoot a taxi driver if she tries to flee. Her colleague Stewart constantly hassles her when she’s made it clear she’s not interested. Were we really like this in 2010?
Being over 50 I spent much of the time thinking “her poor feet!” as Nicole runs everywhere in high heels, and wondering how she never needs to go to the bathroom after hours handcuffed to the bedpost / his car / him.
Butler lets both his emotions play out across his face which becomes as distracting as Aniston’s fake tan as he gurns his way through glee at getting one over on her, to bemused irritation when she gets one over on him, and back again, like a tennis rally involving Tim Henman.
Even by romcom standards Nicole and Milo’s relationship is completely unbelievable. It’s not the rudeness and point-scoring, that make them sound like an old married couple; it’s that they shouldn’t sound like an old married couple. It turns out they hadn’t even known each other that long, which makes me wonder if they are not eternal star-crossed lovers but just a couple of snippy randoms who unfortunately still fancy the arse off one another.
Nicole points out they were together a mere 15 months in total. It doesn’t make sense that she’d be so overcome glimpsing a sign for their honeymoon hotel, or even that he’d know whether her weeping is faked or not. And for such a short marriage they have an awful lot of issues to work through, which might explain the bottom-numbing runtime. (Horror and romcom directors: keep them to 90 minutes please, you are not making Das Boot.)
Most of the cast are gamely making the best of things, like stoic Londoners surviving World War 2 with gravy browning stockings and an annual banana. Baranski does her best with the thin material, as does Jason Sudeikis as Stewart, Nicole’s lovelorn colleague, who randomly reappears to break up the flow of the film. One wonders if he was called back in after the end of shooting when they realised they’d forgotten about him.
Still, I quite enjoyed watching it. I’ve seen it twice now and while it doesn’t get any better it doesn’t get any worse. It may be derivative and tropey, but there is an endearing charm to Milo’s puppyish dimwittery, Nicole’s hardcore feet and indeed the movie’s own cartoonishness — and it boasts a proper movie villain in Earl Mahler (Peter Greene), who with his chiselled cheekbones and air of real menace looks like an evil Max Headroom (ask your A.I. nan).
Missed a bit? Spent all day rewinding Milo in his towel and now it’s too late to watch the whole thing? Fear not — find out the ending and who everyone is…