Based on the onscreen evidence, not a single person in front of or behind the camera cared a whit about how The Bounty Hunter turned out. Director Andy Tennant and his two stars, Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, are all battle-tested veterans of forgettable romantic comedies: Tennant is responsible for Fools Rush In, Sweet Home Alabama, Hitch, and Fool’s Gold; Butler played creeps of different flavors in P.S. I Love You and The Ugly Truth; and Aniston hasn’t stopped squandering her guileless charm in the likes of Picture Perfect, Along Came Polly, and Love Happens. Together, the three seem perfectly content just to toss another movie onto the pile, drifting along on star power, generic thriller plotting, and the standard bicker-bicker-bicker-bicker-near-kiss-bicker-kiss formula. Some movies are passion projects; The Bounty Hunter is an inertia project.
The logline for the film is simple enough: Butler is a shady bounty hunter who gets the plum assignment of tracking down Aniston, his bail-jumping ex-wife. Yet Tennant and screenwriter Sarah Thorp tack on so many complications that they spend much of the running time sorting them all out. Turns out that Aniston, a journalist charged with assaulting a police officer, skipped her court appearance to investigate a suicide case that she believes is a murder cover-up. Butler catches up to her easily, but the case whisks them from Queens to Atlantic City and back again, as they chase (and are chased by) bookie Cathy Moriarty, a possibly crooked cop, and various bungling heavies.
Beyond the usual frisky back-and-forth that occurs in “remarriage comedies,” The Bounty Hunter promises a modicum of kink, since handcuffs are naturally part of the job. But in spite of Aniston’s assortment of Ally McBeal skirts, with hemlines an inch or two short of primly professional, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! this is not. The PG-13 rating draws strict enough boundaries as it is, but Tennant seems to believe the audience is at least as interested in half-assed procedural as they might be in seeing two attractive stars generate some spark. (And the less said about Jason Sudeikis’ embarrassing odyssey as Aniston’s goofy, lovelorn, mustachioed colleague, the better.) Tennant and his actors have done the bare minimum to carry their lifeless movie past the finish line, and their apathy reads a lot like contempt.