How Arrogance Killed the Movie Star
There’s nothing to The Bounty Hunter that can’t be completely described in its logline: “A bounty hunter (Gerard Bulter) learns that his next target is his ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter working on a murder cover-up. Soon after their reunion, the always-at-odds duo find themselves on a run-for-their-lives adventure.”
That’s pretty much it, except for the adventure part. There’s no adventure in The Bounty Hunter. And it’s not a case of wasted talent. Nor is it a case of poor execution. It was a bad concept to begin with, and there’s no talent on hand to waste. It’s an inept movie put together by completely inept people (save for Jason Sudeikis, who tried his little heart out, God bless him). There’s not a joke one — if you can even call them that — that flies in The Bounty Hunter. There’s not an iota of chemistry on screen. There’s not a scene that doesn’t fall completely flat on its ass. It’s an incompetent script, from Sarah Thorp, rife with enough clichés and idiomatic expressions to short-circuit an ESL speaker. To call it paint by numbers would be a disservice to the linearity of numerals. The direction from Andy Tennant is about what you’d expect from the director of Fool’s Gold: Zero style and no interest in making anything other than what he’s being paid to produce. You can’t even call it dumb because that would suggest that it has a personality. It doesn’t. There’s really not a moment in The Bounty Hunter that’s not completely exhausting to suffer through.
Of course, it’s all symptomatic of the Hollywood Movie Star system. Every six months or so, a major news publication — in an effort to troll for readers — will essentially republish the same piece with different names attached. There are many variations, but the headline usually reads something like, “Is the Hollywood Movie Star Dead?” and then they will cherry-pick a lot of A-List movie stars, cite their latest box-office failures, and conclude their thesis until the next publication comes along and writes the same story. And yet, somehow, that Hollywood Movie Star system continues to exist. The problem, of course, is that the Hollywood Movie Star has no interest in selling anything other than a bland product. The Hollywood Movie Star believes that, because he or she starred in a long-running network sitcom or was a featured star in a highly-stylized gladiator movie, that they’ve done enough for the rest of their careers, and they can simply coast on their evergreen shrubs. If the Hollywood Movie Star system is broken, it’s because the Hollywood Movie Stars have broken it.
It used to be that a Hollywood Movie Star was a pitch man for his or her own movie. They would stand by their work, and their image was supposed to represent the quality of that work. It seems the opposite now. The Bounty Hunters doesn’t have the “Jennifer Aniston Stamp of Approval.” Her name is there to dupe you into seeing it. The Hollywood Movie believes that all a movie needs is his or her name attached to it. It’s a system borne out of complete and baffling arrogance. There’s an expectation on their part that an audience will follow them anywhere, and that the final product is moot. It’s their name they’re selling, and not the movie. And if the Hollywood Movie Star system is, in fact, broken, it’s not the audience’s fault, it’s the Hollywood Movie Star’s fault for believing that we would blindly follow her into whatever slow-moving, crickety, broken-down vehicle she straps herself into. Credit certain audiences that are finally catching on to this phenomenon. Unfortunately, the studios are way ahead of the game; now they’re selling an old title repackaged for a wide-eyed Millennial audience. Titles are cheaper than movie stars, anyway.
What this has to do with The Bounty Hunter is obvious: Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler are selling themselves, and not their stamp of approval. Of course, there’s nothing they could sell of the latter, since there’s nothing they could approve of in the movie. It’s an ass-cracker sandwich — and not one of those fancy Ritz crackers. It’s a store brand saltine. Sure, if you eat enough ass crackers, it will fill you up, just as The Bounty Hunter acts as a perfectly adequate time killer. But it’s not an enjoyable one. Or a satisfying one. After all, it tastes like dirty unwashed hobo ass.