It's beyond me as to what genre The Bounty Hunter falls into. Romantic comedy? Action comedy? Romance actioner? Romantic comedy actioner? Alas, no matter which of these genres applies to the film, it's a tremendous failure. The romance is stale, the action is more likely to induce sleep than elevate the pulse, and the comedy is flatter than a sheet of paper. At no stage is the film even able to reach the heights of mere mediocrity. There is absolutely no on-screen chemistry between Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, and the movie is both hopelessly forgettable and awfully unappealing.
The story, such as it is, concerns for-rent bounty hunter Milo (Butler). Not long into the proceedings, Milo is assigned a case he expects to relish - track down his bail-jumping ex-wife Nicole (Aniston) and bring her to gaol. As fate would have it, this job is not as fun or as easy as Milo had anticipated, predominantly because Nicole, a dedicated reporter, is working on a big story and there are bad guys who want her dead. Soon enough, Milo and Nicole are on the run together from a bunch of henchmen, leaving room for them to predictably reassess their failed marriage.
It would seem The Bounty Hunter was intended to be similar to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, yet it miserably fails at this questionable goal. Once the whole State of Play-style plot is introduced, though, the movie transitions from woeful rom-com to truly unwatchable pile of shit. The writing is sloppy and laboured, with a by-the-numbers script offering the police scandal subplot merely to provide the principals with something else to squabble about. Naturally, the generic story also forces Milo and Nicole to recognise how much they actually care about one another. From the very beginning, you can guess every beat of the well-worn Hollywood formula. Clearly, it was supposed to be a fun formula exploring the line between love and hate, but the emotion I mostly experienced throughout the movie was hate, and it was aimed at the filmmakers who were responsible for wasting 105 minutes of my life with this bullshit.
As previously discussed, The Bounty Hunter is something approximating a romantic comedy actioner. Allowing director Andy Tennant to handle these elements, though, is the equivalent of handing Burger King the assignment of serving up a high-class steak dinner. Tennant is a bland studio director without a clue about the art of cinematic personality; his prior films include Fool's Gold and Hitch, both of which are watchable but utterly disposable works of film. Even the mediocrity of his previous efforts cannot be retained here. Admittedly, The Bounty Hunter begins well enough, with the initial half-hour providing a couple of amusing moments here and there. Yet, Tennant's incompetent directorial touch when it comes to adventure, action and chemistry soon derails this minimal amount of interest. Eventually, the narrative closes with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it climax intended to be the pay-off to the agonisingly interminable build-up. It's understandable that the director showed such little interest in his picture by the time the proceedings began winding down, though.
The plot is unbelievably contrived, to be sure, with Milo making incredibly stupid decisions (he decides to gamble as opposed to simply, ya know, delivering his irritating ex-wife to the authorities as quickly as possible?) and the inept bad guys doing a terrible job of achieving their goals. This could have been forgivable, since the main aim of the plot is to get the two leads together so a viewer can watch the sparks fly. Unfortunately, once Butler and Aniston are together, the only flying sparks come from a taser. The two actors share sibling chemistry rather than the scintillating type that weakens the knees. Their respective characters spend the majority of their time together bickering like any divorced couple would, but Sarah Thorp's banal script fails to offer adequate reasoning as to why we should care about the pair. Moreover, the banter lacks wit, and the acting appears drowsy. While Butler has his moments, Aniston is woeful from beginning to end; her performance is more of a series of hair flicks than anything resembling characterisation.
If all else fails, there should at least be laughs. 2009's The Ugly Truth with Gerard Butler was painfully formulaic, yet it contained enough moments of laugh-out-loud comedy to make it worth at least a minor recommendation. 2010's Date Night was loaded with laughs and featured an ideal screen couple in the form of Steve Carell and Tina Fey, but the plot was pure formula. The Bounty Hunter, on the other hand, suffers further from a lack of laughs. Thus, with no vital spark between the leads, an absence of laughs and boring action, there's absolutely no reason to sit through this mess. The rules of rom-coms are well-known, so you know Milo and Nicole will end up together. Such foresight could save you from wasting 105 minutes on this lifeless motion picture.