The main players in the Bounty Hunter all know exactly what they’re doing. Director Andy Tennant has helmed several big romcoms, among them Sweet Home Alabama and Hitch. Despite being a more recent name, Gerard Butler has already found his own romantic niche, starring in P.S. I Love You and The Ugly Truth. And of course, Jennifer Aniston is a weathered veteran of the genre, largely a byproduct of being in one of the biggest sitcoms of all time. All this experience with the genre adds up to absolutely nothing special, as they all seem content to coast on the lowered expectations of the genre’s built in audience. The Bounty Hunter is so lazy that I can’t even get worked up about it.
Reporter Nicole and police detective turned bounty hunter Milo (Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler) used to be happily married to each other. But their marriage ended badly, with plenty of hurt feelings left unresolved. The two finally get to hash out their issues when Nicole misses a court date and Milo gets sent to find her and take her in. Milo takes plenty of pleasure from hunting his ex-wife down, but as the two spend time together, they soon remember what made their relationship so special in the first place.
Not a lot of effort was made in developing the film’s main romantic thread, much of it playing out through formula and tired cliché. The two gratingly bicker for the first act, find some measure of improbable spark in the second, bicker again for the third, before reuniting in the climax. It feels like the movie does the bare minimum to be considered a part of the vast haze of films that carry the “romantic” tag. Meanwhile, it tries to distract audiences from its general lack of originality and spark by burdening the runtime with an abundance of subplots.
Rather than allow the main relationship to build any sort of flavor, the movie regularly takes detours in other movie territories. It becomes a police procedural/buddy comedy as the couple explores a police conspiracy that Nicole might have uncovered. It tilts into mobster clichés as we follow the exploits of a couple of thugs dispatched by a bookie that Milo owes money to. And broad comedy ensues when a colleague and potential suitor of Nicole starts following the couple around. Meanwhile, the main plot chugs along with no real sense of tension or drama.
It’s pretty strange that Gerard Butler keeps ending up in romantic movies. The man is all bluster and smugness, a trait that might serve him well in action films, but completely hobbles him in the realm of romance. His playfulness can come off as meanness, curtailing any chance of finding his characters sympathetic. Jennifer Aniston sleepwalks through another romantic comedy role, channeling her old sitcom character and doing little else. Aniston is the kind of actress that rises to the material, and there was no real reason to rise for this one. The movie simply puts her in a sexy dress and gives her nothing else.
The sheer laziness of The Bounty Hunter is dismaying. It feels like it was assembled from bits and pieces of other films, a Frankenstein’s monster of cinematic dreck. As the film inevitably reaches for its requisite bit of sentiment, the utter artificiality of it all makes the film feel downright offensive. There are talented, experienced people in this film, both in front of and behind the camera, but none of it is really used. Everybody’s just out to get their paycheck, doing barely enough to make the film look like a proper production.