Three films into his romantic comedy career, Gerard Butler has finally reached “watchable.” With “The Bounty Hunter,” the bemused Scots leading man comes closer to setting off sparks with his newest leading lady, Jennifer Aniston. Well, closer than he came with Hilary Swank (“P.S. I Love You”) or Katherine Heigl (“The Ugly Truth”).
The comedy isn’t much better than Butler’s earlier outings. (“The Ugly Truth” was a critically reviled box-office hit.) But at least Aniston, when she has to, can faintly recall the timing and energy it takes to fake the comic charm she had on TV’s “Friends.”
Butler plays an ex-cop with a gambling problem and an ongoing grudge against his ex-wife, a career-minded New York Daily News reporter. Nowadays, Milo Boyd is a bounty hunter, tracking down crooks who skip out on bail, handcuffing them even if he has to chase them, on stilts, through the middle of a July 4th parade.
When Nicole (Aniston) misses a court date and her bail bondsman (Jeff Garlin) is out $50,000, Milo takes the gig. “It’s KARMA!” he crows.
But a reporter on a big story involving murder and corruption won’t be easy to track. Unless, of course, you used to be married to her. When Milo finds her, he’s a good sport.
“Tell you what. You want to make a break for it, I’ll give you a 10-second head start, for old time’s sake!”
Thus begins a cross-state odyssey in which a killer, the cops, a smitten fellow reporter (Jason Sudeikis, kind of funny) and enforcers for a bookie (Cathy Moriarty) chase our never-compatible-couple, two people whose “trust issues” aren’t resolved by Milo’s handcuffs.
Aniston doesn’t bring her old A-game to this. But at least she’s not quiet and reserved and no-energy, her approach to too many roles of late. Butler makes the most of his Neanderthal rut – too many roles that rely on the twinkle in his eye, his manly voice and manly stubble.
Of the many recognizable supporting players, only the formidable Christine Baranski scores.
Director Andy Tennant makes sure the whole shooting match devolves into a shooting match, which only makes one appreciate Butler’s romantic comedy efforts more. If he’s co-starring with Jen, at least he’s not making another “Gamer.” Or “Law Abiding Citizen.”