The review for 'The Bounty Hunter' is being temporarily delayed so that a vocabulary lesson may be provided to our reading audience. The word I'd like to focus on today is "penance." In addition to being the name of a Marvel Comics character with spikes inside and out of the costume (kinky), the word can be generically defined as an act to show sorrow for committing a misdeed. Basically, self-punishment. In addition to its use in some religious beliefs, this word also describes why I'm reviewing this film right here and now.
It was my turn to take one for the team.
That isn't to say I had my mind made up on this film before going into it; far from it. The only thing I knew about it was that it had a semi-interesting trailer, that it scored a horrendous 8 percent at Rotten Tomatoes, and that its leads, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, were romantically linked by numerous websites that link any male seen within 300 feet of Aniston, regardless of if they're being paid to do it, as Butler was. She's kind of the tabloid sensation, you see, due to her heartbreak over the whole Brad Pitt thing, people sympathize/empathize with her. It's like she's everyone's Friend. Unfortunately, Aniston has shown less range than a guillotine in recent years, constantly playing a woman with a troubled relationship, or troubled history of relationships. This is all I knew going into 'The Bounty Hunter.'
I really wish I had just watched the trailer for two hours. I cannot even begin to describe how awesome the review for this film would have been if I did. Sadly, that is not the review you are reading right now.
Nicole Hurley (Aniston) is a wanted felon. She's out on bail for assaulting a police officer, and blew off her court appearance to investigate a story she is working on for her job at The Daily News. Milo Boyd (Butler) is a bounty hunter, a former cop with a gambling debt, and a string of bad luck. Did his luck just change when he gets his dream job: hooking his ex-wife and delivering her to jail? Not so much. As much as Boyd revels in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the story Hurley is working on seems to become more relevant and dangerous to both of them, and soon the spiteful pair must try to work together to stay alive. Police corruption? Missing drugs? A lovelorn co-worker (Jason Sudeikis) pining after Hurley in the most stalker-y of fashions? Danger? The chance to see what drove a happy couple apart, and fix it? Yeah, it's all there.
'The Bounty Hunter' isn't a good film, and the problem lies mostly in the writing. Simply put, this story seems too manufactured, built around the idea of capitalizing on Aniston and her personal life, and combining genres to try to make a hybrid of sorts (and any science fiction-horror fan can tell you, combining species is never a good idea...). This action/romantic comedy/suspense film tries to do too much, and stretches itself far too thin to be effective at any one of its elements.
This film has potential written all over it, which only adds to the frustration of watching it unfold (more like unravel). What adult cannot imagine themselves in one of the two leads? Sure, the whole "arrest" thing is an exaggeration, but who hasn't been in a relationship that ended on less than amicable terms, leading to severe disdain? There are plenty of guys who have been jerked around and misled to the point that they would love to see their former-significant other have to pay for their crimes, even literally, in this sense. Additionally, plenty of women can say they've been alienated by their former beaus, and driven away by their actions, only to be made to look like the villain.
How can something so basic, relatable, and real be screwed up so badly? I can't blame director Andy Tennant, as the pacing problems seem to be more the fault of the meandering "do everything for everyone" story premise, and numerous scenes are above and beyond what one would expect from a stinker. In fact, the entire film reeks of potential, but fails to reach out and connect the dots. Aniston's shtick is really worn out at this point, as it has been years since she truly played a "different" role, while Butler has gone from a role that made him beyond famous ('300') to spitting in the face of the same audience that made him what he is now with his involvement in films that are beyond uninspired. He was set to be the next Russell Crowe, but may end up a flash in the pan like Russell Brand with his awful career choices.
The way story lines collide in 'The Bounty Hunter' may be one of the big reasons why it falls flat on its face. We need the basic premise that Hurley is in danger, and said danger may reignite the flames with her ex. What we don't need is the side plot with Boyd, and his bookie trying to collect her money through her moronic thugs at every corner. It's simply amazing that this film didn't get so lazy as to have Hurley's pursuers off Boyd's, just to tidy up the story, considering it was so lazy with everything else. Instead, we're stuck with boring supporting characters who do nothing to the story beyond complicate it further, to the point that we no longer can associate with anyone.
The way 'The Bounty Hunter' also tries to put the characters in familiar situations to remind them of what they lost is also sadly predictable, cliche, and aggravating. As Hurley sees a sign for the place where she and Boyd honeymooned, she weeps at the memory. Why do we have to then go to said place? It's stupid, obvious, and cheap. It's amateur, it's been done a million times. More descriptions of what it was? Sure! It's flat insulting to the movie-going public, and just another reason why this film tanked so horribly. Originality. I wanted to like this film, as the trailer had promise, but damn if this film didn't make the task impossible.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Sony brings 'The Bounty Hunter' to Blu-ray on a Region Free (A/B/C) BD50 Dual Layer disc. There are some annoying pre-menu trailers ('The Back-Up Plan,' 'Chloe,' 'Get Low,' and an annoying as hell Sony product trailer called Make.Believe), but they fail to even come close to how annoying (and horrendous) the menu is.
Imagine, if you will, a menu that is amazingly slow to react (on a player that never has given me one problems on said topic). Alright, now imagine that with every selection you make, a menu pops up, that doesn't let you select anything immediately. Instead, it makes the text slowly increase in size, as if it were coming from the back forward. If you select an option that has another menu pop up, it does it again. Now, when you close any of these screens, instead of disappearing, the text first slowly shrinks, going through the opposite motion as before. The time you wasted reading this paragraph is nothing compared to the time this menu wastes if you're trying to see what all is available on this disc. Add in some horribly annoying menu music, and you have what I'd like to call the biggest piece of shit menu in Blu-ray history.
The case for this title is one of the new Eco-Vortex cases, that has sections that are thinner plastic than the rest, but without the annoying cut-outs other eco-cases have. It is entirely possible that one could sprinkle narcotics onto the case, and roll it into a blunt. I would bet it wouldn't even snap or crack. That's how cheesy these new cases are. Just be warned, said action may send the bounty hunter after you!
The video for 'The Bounty Hunter' (by way of a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode at 2.35:1) had to be the hardest part to grade, as I went back and forth between a couple scores. No title has ever made me second guess back and forth on a score for even a fraction of how much this one has. I wish that was a good thing.
'The Bounty Hunter' is just the biggest tease of a transfer I've ever seen. It's much like a PG-13 strip club (yes, there's one of those in this film), where guys hoot and holler like they've never seen exposed ankle, in that it has the goods (and the goods? They're great), but it decides to put clothing on, rather than take it off. It stinks like stripper sweat.
Let's start with the bad (the film sure does!). A few early scenes have a distracting blue tint to them, that may have been caused by lighting, or by the fact that no one gave a damn. Pick one. Soon after the Smurf-y flash-forward opening, we're brought back 24 hours earlier in the story, and it's like going through a time machine, back to the time when the men and women in charge of video quality control thought tinkering a title all to shit was a good thing. The entire scene that unfolds is one of horror. Imagine a parade, in a city that is CGI'ed to look bigger. Yep, set extensions. Alright, now imagine that either by product of non-existant special effects budget, or the nastiest edge enhancement ever, that everything has a blue outline to it. Yes, at times the outline is thicker on both sides than the item or character it is outlining. Said outline is countless shades darker than the very light blue sky. This problem only appears in this area of the film this dramatically, but it may as well have been a missing reel straight out of 'Grindhouse,' in my eyes. Terrible, flat terrible.
Now, ringing pops up from time to time in the rest of the film, just never as amazingly pronounced as the effect described above. There are numerous blurry scenes, and plenty of times where faces have literally no distinction to them. Noise is a distraction every now and again, and grain levels don't stay consistent. Wavering is a big issue, as well, as there are two scenes that are nearly back to back that are reminiscent of the ocean. First, the black trim tiles in the women's restroom move in thickness as Aniston moves through the area (with the camera holding fairly still), then, on the roof of a building, the lines on the ground pulse and waver. Shots of both Aniston and Gerard in their vehicle at times are looped very, very poorly. I say that, in that the shots of the two principal actors are shades different than normal, and so flat and two dimensional that they may as well be computer generated body doubles performing the scenes. Honestly, considering the lifeless acting on display, this wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Last on the laundry list, the hideous striped outfit Butler wears in the finale of the second act creates some odd aliasing effects.
All the above is a tremendous shame, and a wasted opportunity, as 'The Bounty Hunter' really could have shown through. Detail is amazing at times, literally leaping right off the screen. I have never seen Aniston's hair so amazingly detailed and rich, with the layers of blonde and brown discerning themselves like they were at war, and her stray and frizzy hairs leaping from her head. Skin tones felt fairly natural, and colors were beyond bright and vibrant.
Putting all this into paragraph form from my notes helped me make up my mind. Let's drop this puppy down a notch.
This is the part of the review where expectations vs. reality come into play, as 'The Bounty Hunter' revels in its own audio mediocrity, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that's quite mundane. Honestly, the entire thing would feel over ten years old, with its uninspired, middling mix, if it weren't for the modern hipster soundtrack that is sure to date this film worse than its leads and its story. Dialogue is clear, and never dares to move around the room, staying nice, front, and center. Sometimes it can come off a tad hollow, but overall it's satisfactory. Rears get the tiniest bits of ambience, often not matching the activity levels found on screen. For every nice moment or two(the loudspeakers at the racetrack localizing, the gunfire found at the end of the film having a tiny bit of movement and localization), there is a bit of facepalm worthy failure (busy exterior scenes that start with only front ambience, that slowly creep into the rears, as the scene gets less busy. I wish that were exaggeration). The soundtrack has some great bass, but that's about all the bass gets, and the scored moments certainly have the most range on display. In short, this track is your generic, cheap, lazy romantic comedy audio mix, and it really, really pissed me off.
I feel wronged right now. I captured and scolded a horrible criminal, yet not only am I not collecting a few thousand dollars, the wrongdoer is still going to be released upon the public. Sure, it's unrealistic to think Sony would bury every existing copy of 'The Bounty Hunter,' but they probably should have at least considered it. That should sum up my feelings on this film. This Blu-ray is a bit of a mess, with very disappointing audio and video for such a new release, and a pile of generic, boring extras. This is one to avoid, for many, many reasons.