Welcome to the latest in a long line of Mr. and Mrs. Smith clones. It has been five years since Doug Liman’s clever little action flick graced the big screen, and as while it was the most energetic and entertaining takes on modern married life in recent memory it had the unfortunate side effect of every half-assed husband-and-wife-try-to-hurt-each-other-but-they-love-each-other-really clone suddenly greenlit in its wake. Look out for Date Night next month.

The Bounty Hunter, the new comedy from Andy Tennant, is predictably about a guy (Gerrard Butler) who tries to bring his ex wife, Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), in for an easy five grand but runs into all sorts of trouble in the form of uninteresting bad guys who like to fire automatic weapons. And by comedy we don’t mean that it is funny, per se, only that it fits that description slightly better than, say, science-fiction. Plus it involves people driving a golf cart into a water hazard so get ready to bust a gut!

The dysfunctional ex-couple is played give it their best shot, even though the script by Sarah Thorp appears to have been written in her sleep as it neglects to provide anything really resembling a comic opportunity. Nicole is an ace reporter for the New York Daily News (portrayed here as the last bastion of real journalism) and is on the lam because she is so devoted to her job – chasing down a lead on a mob story – she was unable to make her court date.

Milo, meanwhile, has amassed a sizable gambling debt, so between the two of them they soon have every clichéd heavy in the book chasing after them. Aniston has always worked harder at being a movie star than at being a serious actress and thus far that has worked out alright for her because she typically has an eye for a project. But on this evidence her judgment is slipping and pretty soon she’ll only have The Good Girl and Office Space to buff up her resume.

Some reviews have pointed out that Milo’s asshole tendencies go above and beyond the call of duty. Maybe. He does delete an innocent man’s DVR for Christ’s sake, but even more offensive is his overwhelming stupidity. And it is that stupidity that Thorp uses to advance her script from one unfunny disaster to the next. Case in point, half way through this unholy mess he lets Nicole talk him into taking her $500 into the Atlantic City Taj Mahal so that he can win $10,000 at the craps table. So there he is dragging her, handcuffed, through the crowded casino trying to make this boneheaded plan work. Apparently he never heard the one about having a bird in the hand.

Bounty Hunter wants to be about two people who used to love each other learning to love each other again. It could work but sadly today’s audiences find that way too boring, so the only way that story would ever find its way to the multiplex is if they did that while exchanging gunfire with broadly drawn ethnic stereotypes. That’s fine, give the people what they want and all that, but it just hard to imagine anybody finding anything to like about this anemic script that just wreaks of one demographic baiting studio note af6ter another.

After running all over New Jersey while squabbling, dodging gunfire, and trying to solve the big case that will make Nicole’s career, the mismatched pair just happen to end up back at a bed and breakfast that they visited back when they were newlyweds (ta da). The scene is contrived to a painful degree but is the only time Thorp shows any sort of capacity for crafting a funny joke.

Other than that we are stuck watching junk like the time where Nicole tries to make a break by stealing a petty cab away from a horny 17-year-old boy. The movie also features two TV actors of enormous comedic talent (Jason Sudeikis and Jeff Garlin) and at no point does either of them get to strut their stuff. Everything here is forgettable and unremarkable, and if in a year’s time you mention The Bounty Hunter it will only, most likely, result in perplexed head scratching and a shrug.

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Jeff Garlin
Director: Andy Tennant
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures

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