The Bounty Hunter is lazy. It offers little in the way of romance or comedy, as if expecting us to overlook paltry storytelling and be satisfied with ogling Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Frankly, even that gets irksome pretty quickly.
Nicole (Aniston) and Milo (Butler) are divorced. Their breakup has apparently inspired Nic to new career heights as an investigative reporter, while it has driven Milo to drink himself off the police force and into a career as a bounty hunter. When she jumps bail to follow up on a story lead, Milo, anxious to earn some extra cash so he can pay off his bookie, agrees to pick her up. Of course, he gets the added bonus of exacting some semblance of revenge in tormenting and humiliating her. They end up kicking, slapping, handcuffing, and tasing each other until they realize they are still in love. Now, where have we seen that before?
Poor Jen Aniston will now have to endure yet another round of comparisons between her private life and her film roles, which begs the question: why on earth would she agree to make this poor man’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith? The Bounty Hunter is wholly conventional, making no effort to question, let alone upend its genre and it has nowhere near the cleverness, sexual tension or violence of that other husband and wife slugfest. In comparison to Jane and John Smith, Nicole and Milo are like two kittens batting at one another.
The reasons for Nic and Milo’s divorce are mundane. She put her career before him; he drove her crazy with his boorish demands, like wanting her attention. Both blame the other for the failure. This hardly seems reason for a nuclear marital meltdown, and that’s costly for the film. Their mutual suffering is never convincing, and neither is their attraction. They seem almost as bored walking through this movie as the rest of us are sitting through it.
If there is any shred of content worth noting, it might be how each ends up motivating the other to meet his or her needs. Though Milo complains that Nicole didn’t treat him nicely, he is most defensive and retaliating when she mocks him. When she praises him, however disingenuously, he strives to rise to the occasion and earn her respect. Despite Nicole’s tough act, her mother (Christina Baranski) tells Milo that she’s “a strong and independent woman on the outside, but on the inside she’s just a girl wanting to be loved by her man.” This characterization pans out: at the first sign of tenderness from Milo, Nicole jumps at the chance to reconnect emotionally.
Nic’s situation is, no surprise, the least resolvable. She demands to be taken seriously, but she’s fine with flashing her boobs when she doesn’t have enough cab fare. When she fires off a shotgun blast at one villain, yelling, “That’s for calling me a ‘girl’!”, we can’t help but realize how ridiculous that is coming from her, given that she’s all too willing to exploit her girlness at every turn.