A bad night at the movies, or a mediocre night at home watching a TV pilot.
Yes, I saw this. I will say that this story appeals to a very specific audience, and that audience seems to be middle aged women who like to see men in pain. I was one of four guys in a half full theater and clearly the only one who hadn’t been dragged along by a significant other. One of the major problems this film suffers from is that if you had shown it to me on DVD I would have said it was a TV pilot that failed to go anywhere. I kept waiting for commercial breaks.
My predictions for this movie did not come 100% true. She did have feelings for her ex, but they did not do anything to prevent her from doing her job. She did outdo a more experienced bounty hunter, but only in the most superficial way. My last prediction did indeed come true, although instead of kicking a guy in the nuts it was shooting him in the chest.
I said one of the major problems with this film is the fact that it felt like a TV show, but there are many others. Another huge problem is the fact that the plot runs like a Ruth Goldberg machine that keeps breaking down. You know, the woodpecker breaks the wood pin that causes the iron tied to a string to release, turning the cog that pulls the trigger on the pistol, starting the bowling ball to roll along the tracks eventually turning on the washing machine etc etc? Except in this case none of the separate devices connect properly and you can see the director and the producers (including star Katherine Heigl. More on that later) running around putting the bowling ball back on the track, replacing the woodpecker when it dies, and using the pistol to shoot their agent for getting them involved in this dog. The plot (for lack of a better term) advances only through the most random happenstance and farcical connections.
Another problem this movie suffers from is the incredibly bland supporting characters and the avalanche of otherwise interesting minor characters who vanish off the screen after a couple scenes. Katherine Heigl is the Executive Producer of this thing and it really feels like she is dealing with a massive insecurity issue. In other words, she won’t put anyone on the screen who may overshadow her. Everyone else in the film is a relative nobody. Also, there is not a single scene except for a couple out of focus flashbacks that don’t feature her. The most interesting characters are all the minor ones to literally don’t last past the two minute mark. Her competing bounty hunter gets killed within one minute of meeting her. A goofy Asian pot head with a dragon tattoo on his forehead gets killed in the scene after we meet him. Her best friend only appears on screen in phone calls and then vanishes into the ether, along with the mother and daughter of the hooker she is trying to help. Even the main bad guy has one lousy scene with her and then kind of waits in the wings to do anything.
The last problem, although not as major as the first three, is the stupid voice over monologue. I know this is a movie adapted from a book, but honestly books have expository monologues because they are made of words. Movies are made of pictures and sounds and as such can convey events and feelings without telling us what is going on in the dumbest manner possible. The only genre where the expository voice over works is in noir detective stories. This movie is not noir. Look at Bladerunner. The voice over monologue was forced into the film by the studio, and in the end when they came out with the directors cut it was entirely deleted, making for a much better film (Replicant image courtesy of the Science Fiction T Shirt category).
Anyway, the story. Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked Up, Life as we Know It) plays Stephanie Plum, an ex lingerie salesperson who is desperate for some kind of income. She has dinner with her family, the New Jersey Stereotypes, and gets told that her cousin Vinnie (no joke. Her New Jersey cousin is named Vinnie. My Cousin Vinnie? By the way, he is played by Patrick Fischler-Twister, Old School, Speed, Mulhulland Drive), who owns a bail bond shop, has a job. She ends up, with no training, experience, or equipment, a bounty hunter and is hot on the case of the guy who took her virginity (a fact that we are repeatedly and painfully reminded of over and over again) back in high school, Joe Morelli (Resident Evil Extinction, Life on Mars, Terra Nova). He is a cop who has been accused of shooting a drug dealer or something. By the time we get to what actually happened all the Ruth Goldberg devices had so cluttered up the screen that I couldn’t really tell what was going on. Anyway, she embarks on a wacky adventure to all the worst parts of town and doesn’t seem to get killed. She meets up with another bounty hunter named Ranger (Daniel Sunjata-All My Children, Rescue Me, the Devil Wears Prada) who buys her a gun (in complete disregard for cooling off periods and/or concealed weapon laws) and shows up to back her up occasionally. She meets the very scary and intense villain (Gavin-Keith Umeh-Law and Order SVU, Unforgettable, White Collar) but I guess he was too cool to actually show as he spent most of the movie not on screen. Probably it was felt he would overpower Heigl’s performance. A car gets blown up. Oddball plot twists that add nothing and don’t make a lot of sense crop up. The pilot (I mean movie) ends and retreats to the failed idea shelf.
The stars. I don’t know. There were a couple of entertaining scenes, I guess. One star. I would normally give a star for some interesting minor characters, but they all vanished like free finger food at an open mike poetry reading. Katherine Heigl is definitely easy on the eyes, and seems to have cornered the market on skin tight jeans (and giant purses). One star. She does a partially nude scene that is pretty good, but since she is only half naked I can only give her half a star. Total: Two and a half stars.
The black holes. Disjointed Ruth Goldbergian plot. Two black holes. Making me pay for what in reality should have been a free pilot episode. One black hole. Bland, boring support characters. One black hole. The voice over monolog that made me want to run screaming into the night. One black hole. In addition to being a big, disjointed mess, the end of the movie was at the same time labyrinthine and pat. Basically you couldn’t have wrapped up the story neater if the main character had actually been a producer of the film (oh, wait…). One black hole. A complete disregard of all forms of gun laws. One black hole. Loading the plot with extra characters and then erasing them to make more room for Katherine Heigl. One black hole. Total: eight black holes.
So a grand total of five and a half black holes. Not a great score. I don’t really have anything against Katherine Heigl. I think she has talent and is super hot. I enjoyed her as the stuck up prissy girl in Knocked Up. If she could find the right role I would be happy to give her a good review. This one isn’t it. Worth seeing? Not really. There is nothing in this movie that makes it worth spending your hard earned dollars. It really does feel like you are watching TV. Date movie? Actually yes. This might work as a date movie to a certain extent. You will sit there fuming about having to spend money and 106 minutes of your life on it, but as long as your date doesn’t have to pay for it she might well enjoy it. The chemistry on screen is tepid at best, but could put her in the right mood, if you know what I mean.
Man on a Ledge later today, so look for that review tomorrow. Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. I have some thoughts on the Academy nominations and might blog some about them later this week. Talk to you soon.