Mar 18, 2010

Review Post 70: The Bounty Hunter

DIR: Andy Tennant
CAST: Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler

I’ve been thinking very seriously, lately, about simply giving up on mainstream Hollywood cinema. This is why; movies like The Bounty Hunter, movies made with such unmitigated contempt for their audience, such total lack of effort, such disinterest in doing anything remotely interesting or surprising. Films like this are the death of cinema, more so than piracy, more so than television. Traditional crowdpleasing genre cinema is being slowly strangled, having the breath choked out of it by directors like Andy Tennant, because they just don’t fucking care.

The story is Midnight Run with a divorced couple, only rather than being adult, smart and funny this story of ex-husband Milo (Butler) excitedly executing a warrant on his ex-wife Nicole (Aniston) is juvenile, idiotic and soul destroying. I used to refer to extremely generic movies as being written by the Plot-O-Matic 3000. The Bounty Hunter represents a significant upgrade in technology. Yes, with the new, improved Plot-O-Matic 5000 you can simply feed old scripts into the machine, and it will write you something ‘new’. Here, the machine is working overtime. Every mismatched buddy movie and every rom-com of the last quarter of a century has been fed into the Plot-O-Matic, and reduced down to a collection of the oldest, mouldiest, clichés you can imagine. Not a single frame of this movie is unexpected. Every machination of the plot, every joke, every line, every cut, everything feels so like you’ve seen it before that even the stupidest person in the cinema (like the prize winning idiots sat cackling in front of me) could write this movie faster than it plays.

Andy Tennant’s direction is directionless. He can’t bring any new ideas to the table, or find a new way to shoot any of the overworked scenarios that are stitched together into the abomination that is this film’s screenplay. There’s no through line to what he does, with the exception of the fact that the whole film is shot like an unimaginative, overlit, sitcom. Everything looks flat, and Aniston, under Tennant’s harsh light, often looks a little drawn. It’s not that this is an ugly film as much as it is a completely uninspired one. I would actually wager that, given time, you could assemble this film, almost shot for shot, from other films. That’s how little Andy Tennant contributes here, there’s not a single shot of this movie that feels unique to it.

With each passing frame of The Bounty Hunter I lurched further into total despair for the future of cinema. There’s a sign for the hotel where Milo and Nicole spent their honeymoon. On seeing that sign I made a bet with myself that within twenty minutes, through some no doubt wacky coincidence, they’d be staying at ‘Cupid’s Cabin’. It took about 12 minutes. Throughout the film the couple in front of me seemed (in the most obnoxious way possible) to be LOVING this excrement smeared piece of celluloid, and I can’t for the life of me work out why. Throughout the film I silently ticked off the plot developments and jokes as I predicted every last one of them. They did the same out loud. At one point Aniston gets in a golf cart, and they muttered “she’s going to crash into the pond.” I’d figured the same thing, and when seconds later we were all proved right, we all reacted. I felt a little piece of my soul die, they laughed uproariously. I just want to take a moment to analyse that moment, because I don’t understand that reaction on so many levels. First: That joke isn’t funny, at all. Second: That joke is older than dirt, it’s the same joke that happens every time someone drives a golf cart in a movie. Third: They predicted the exact joke, a full thirty seconds before the movie made it, so why the holy hell is it funny?

It seems almost unfair to talk about what we’ll be charitable and call the acting in this movie. Expecting anyone to be good in something this badly written and directed is really like giving a chef a tin of baked beans and expecting him to make a steak dinner with it but, in this slightly stretched analogy, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler aren’t chefs, and I’m not sure they can even open the tin of beans. Milo and Nicole are the names they (incessantly) call each other, but beyond that neither of them has any identity whatsoever. There is never even the slightest sense that either Butler or Aniston is playing a character at all, let alone a rounded, three dimensional, vaguely human one. They stand around on screen, spewing clichés back and forth in an endless droning monotone, looking like they’d rather be doing anything else. They are, at least, not alone in that.

The Bounty Hunter is an appalling movie. It is so bad, in fact, that there ought to be laws against it. It is certainly a crime against cinema. More than anything, this joyless, soulless movie feels like watching Hollywood collectively throw up its hands and say “We’ve got nothin’”. This is the death of cinema. Please, for the love of movies, and for my sanity, don’t go and see it, because if you don’t they might be forced to start trying.

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