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Entries in The Bounty Hunter (2)

Friday
Dec072012

Only the Young

This week isn’t a particularly big week for movies. There’s only one major release—a romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler that, if it’s like his last genre endeavor, The Bounty Hunter, is bound to fail—and only a few little nothing movies that will barely see the light of day. Two of those movies share similar approaches. The documentary Tchoupitoulas follows a few young boys around as they discover New Orleans nightlife and are forced to come-of-age and it’s fairly awful, never coming close to anything even remotely insightful. However, Only the Young, a film that follows a group of punk skater kids around is decidedly different. There is real depth here, both in the characters and in the emotional pull of the film.

The two main subjects are a couple of high school kids named Garrison and Kevin. They live in a small desert town in California and they love to skate. In fact, they spend almost all their time together doing just that. For years, they’ve been inseparable and despite some bumps in the road, including an awkward kiss Kevin shares with Garrison’s ex-girlfriend, Skye, they remain close. This is the heart and soul of Only the Young. It’s about two boys who don’t really know where their lives are heading or where they’ll be in 10 years, but, frankly, they don’t care. They live in the moment, rarely showing signs of sadness or fatigue. They cherish every moment together and brighten up when one sees the other coming.

But their personalities are deeper than a mutual bond they share with each other and it all hearkens back to Garrison’s unwillingness to harbor any resentment towards Kevin when he kisses Skye. He cares too much for his friend to do so and he genuinely wants him to succeed. When Kevin qualifies for a skate contest, but then fails to place, Garrison, even at his young age, doesn’t ridicule his friend like many would. He instead talks of how proud he is of Kevin for even getting to that point. Skaters and punk rock kids are always seen as rebellious and godless, but that’s not necessarily the case (as seen when Garrison and Kevin head out with a religious organization to a local skate park and try to spread the gospel through skateboarding). These kids are surprisingly selfless and profoundly mature.

Perhaps the best example of this maturity comes during an interview with Skye when she discusses a time when she was still with Garrison. She speaks highly of him, stressing the importance of a real connection, someone you can have fun with and love without getting physical. She then suddenly reveals that Garrison never even kissed her, which may sound strange to us, but it didn’t bother her. As she says, she’s had enough kisses to know they don’t mean much unless there’s something special behind it. Did I mention these kids were still in high school?

Only the Young is about friendship, teenage anxiety, romance, growing up, moving on and it even puts faith (and the struggle with it) in greater context in the back half of the film. The problem is that at only 70 minutes, less if you don’t include the credits, it doesn’t take the time it needs to fully explore these themes. They’re definitely there and they’re easy to recognize, but too often they’re sped through, usually right when they’re starting to nail some bigger meaning. Nevertheless, the film is infinitely more interesting than one might expect it to be. What often happens when putting real life kids on camera is they act out, trying to impress rather than acting normally. Rarely does it feel that way here and when emotion seeps through, particularly with the effervescent Skye, who is dealing with a father in jail, a heroine addicted mother and the foreclosure of her grandparents’ home, it’s real. Only the Young looks pretty simple on the surface, but when you step back and put all the pieces together, it proves itself to be something quite special.

Only the Young receives 4/5

Friday
Mar192010

The Bounty Hunter

Meet Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston). She's a journalist who is on the beat attempting to uncover the mystery behind a recent man's alleged suicide. Oh, and she's also a felon. Not too long ago, she was arrested for assaulting a police officer and her court date is fast approaching, too fast it seems because she skips bail and finds herself on the lam from the cops. Now meet Milo (Gerard Butler), a bounty hunter who specializes in finding fugitives and taking them to jail. His newest assignment: capture Nicole. At first, he is ecstatic because Nicole is actually his ex-wife and really, who wouldn't want to drag their ex-wife to jail? However, somebody is out to take her life because she is getting too close to the truth behind the suicide and Milo finds himself way over his head. He must protect her and deal with her annoying eccentricities, but he can't help but begin to fall in love with her all over again.

And thus begins the abomination that is The Bounty Hunter. Like Cop Out before it, this film has a poor flow, an uninteresting story, bland enemies and annoying leads. It's funnier than Cop Out though, which is to say there's one good joke. The rest is a mind numbing rom-com that isn't worth the dried up gum underneath the seat you'll be watching it on.

When it comes to any type of movie like this, whether it be a buddy cop film or a romantic comedy, the lead characters must be likable. Spending your two hours with them should be fun. You should find yourself laughing at their jokes, enjoying their zany quirks and caring about them if they are in peril. I wanted, however, to kill these two characters myself. They are both loud, obnoxious and practically begging for us to like them. Their attempts to satisfy the audience come off as desperate and grating. Butler's character is merely throwaway, not in the way a less prominent character would be, but because I couldn't care less about what happened to him and the only interesting thing about Aniston's character is that you could occasionally see through her shirt when the lighting was right.

The saddest part of this debacle is that the premise is ripe for the picking, and I suspect is the sole reason it got greenlit to begin with. A bounty hunter male capturing his ex-wife and taking her to jail has so much potential, yet it would take a revamp of the entire movie--rewrites, reshoots, recasts--to make this thing tolerable.

Butler and Aniston produce no chemistry together because Aniston is only funny when supported by funny people and Butler is not one of them. He's an actor I have much respect for. I loved 300 and he even managed to convince me of his acting prowess in silly films like Law Abiding Citizen and Gamer, but for some reason he seems compelled to take roles in gag-inducing rom-com tripe, not the least of which includes last year's atrocious The Ugly Truth, and he simply isn't very good in any of them.

In a year that has thus far been unexceptional, The Bounty Hunter does little to turn the tide. It's shallow, predictable and it always takes the easy route, going for fast zingers, yet keeping it clean to keep its precious PG-13 rating (despite a trip to a topless strip club where the dancers are all, for some reason, fully covered). This thing has no gravitas, no guts, no redeeming factors and is unworthy of your time.

The Bounty Hunter receives 0.5/5