The Bounty Hunter
Directed by Andy Tennant
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Jason Sudeikis and Christine Baranski

If you’ve seen the trailers for The Bounty Hunter then you’ve already seen the movie because those two-minute spots encapsulate everything that happens during the film’s 110-minute runtime.

As the various teasers establish, Jennifer Aniston plays a wanted woman on the lam and Gerard Butler is the bounty hunter who tracks her down for a big payday.  Oh yeah, and they also used to be married to each other, but broke up because they spent all their time bickering.  The plot breaks down like so: he insults her, she insults him, she tries to get away, he catches her and locks her in his car trunk, they run away from some bad guys with guns, sparks fly once again and that’s it, roll credits.  By the way, that’s a summary of both the trailer and the finished film.  Well, okay, to be fair, the trailers don’t mention that Aniston’s character Nicole is actually an investigative journalist for the New York Daily News and she’s only on the run because she skipped out on a court date in order to meet a source who had a hot tip on a suicide case that may actually have been a murder and…

You know what?  Who cares?  Certainly not screenwriter Sarah Thorp or director Andy Tennant, who have crafted the laziest, least inspired excuse for an action comedy since Cop Out came and went from theaters a few weeks back.  Actually, The Bounty Hunter is so dire, it makes Cop Out look like Beverly Hills Cop instead of a self-aware facsimile of that genre classic.  Then again, it’s possible that Thorp and Tennant are actually two steps ahead of all of us.  Perhaps recognizing that the only thing they needed to sell the movie to the studio and the general moviegoing public was a two-line concept and a pair of attractive stars, they funneled all their energies into coming up with the right pitch and made up the rest on the fly.  If that was the strategy, it worked–the script got made, they got paid and the movie appears set for a decent opening weekend thanks to its easily marketable premise and popular leads.  After all, who goes into a movie like The Bounty Hunter expecting something like a good story anyway?

That question isn’t entirely sarcastic.  The fact is, complaining about the lack of originality in a piece of glossy studio product like The Bounty Hunter is a waste of energy.  These kinds of pictures specifically avoid doing anything different, instead repackaging familiar plots, scenes and even jokes that have proven successful in the past–it’s the filmmaking equivalent of cooking comfort food.  Oftentimes, the best you can hope for is that this recycled material is enlivened by charismatic performances, crisp direction or scattered moments of genuine surprise, humor or emotion.  All of those elements are missing from The Bounty Hunter, which plods along with all the energy and enthusiasm of a POW on a forced march.

That’s also an accurate description of the performances delivered by the movie’s stars; as written by Thorp and played by Aniston and Butler, these two characters are so aggressively irritating and unlikable, the world would be better off with both of them behind bars.  There’s something disturbing about the gleeful way Butler’s character routinely insults and manhandles Aniston supposedly in the name of comedy; one can only assume that the filmmakers were going for a pair of Tracy and Hepburn-style battling exes, but that combination only works if the actors seem like physical and mental equals.  Aniston appears entirely uninterested in matching wits with her co-star, allowing him to more or less bully her throughout the movie while she stands around in a tight, low-cut outfit designed to show off as much of her ass and cleavage as a PG-13 rating will allow.  Watching this jerk capture, berate and then woo back his ex-doormat isn’t funny, romantic or cute–it’s just depressing.

The Bounty Hunter opens in theaters on Friday.