Didn’t we just do this? The whole, “Awkward, unknowing bounty hunter chases down an old flame wherein romantic hijinks ensue?” It sounds familiar. A Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston joint? What was that called? Bounty something? Oh, right. The Bounty Hunter. Duh.

People hated it.

Cutting One for the Money some slack wouldn’t be the end all. Fans have been gorging on Stephanie Plum books for over a decade, and the reality is, Bounty Hunter was ripping on Janet Evanovich’s work. But, Hollywood is a fickle beast, and in an era where The Simpsons did it, The Bounty Hunter did it too.

There’s no work around to the awkwardness of the concept being duped on screen, although Heigl has more charm and pep as Plum than Aniston did as… whatever she was. The character has room to play and shine as a heroine tracking down her ex, who potentially could be innocent. She’s in it for the money first, but her pokey curiosity isn’t as damning to the narrative as Aniston’s mean streak is in the other one most of us have already forgotten.

Money is chummy with its dialogue, quick-witted as needed and splashy with its likeable cast of awkward do-gooders. Plum’s world is almost too colorful, perfect despite being imperfect. Everyone is so loveable, that even as cars are repossessed due to dwindling bank account funds, all is well. The script is almost too willing, the third acts darker turn, with piling bodies and ground up parts, too twisted for something this breezy.

The film isn’t smart, just escapist fantasy. The assumption is that the books are geared feminine, with more riding on that than a female lead. Despite an overwhelming urge to play up the sex appeal with nude shower escapades and bullets that happen to draw attention to Heigl’s posterior, she’s a gruff lead. She learns quick, and her adventure into the world of bail bondsman wants your attention. She shoots, she tackles, and goes home to feed her hamster. It’s a normal life, except for the gun thing.

Money is too short to be offensive, even if it’s never all that intriguing. The threadbare mystery narrows itself down to a pittance of potential, all of three or so thugs the potential lead in a framing set up. You can piece it out in the first half hour, leaning the rest of the film on the shoulders of Heigl. Personal preference plays into the material at that point, and despite similarities, she’s more than a pretty face and the affection of a male lead. It’s by no means a breakout role, but at least it’s a bridge into something with teeth on it. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

One for the Money’s look is directly associated with its vibrant personality. Inviting, warm, and bright, Money is a colorful bazaar, lifting primaries and accentuating the heat in the flesh tones. Few scenes dissolve into a restricted palette (the gun range zealous with the teal), letting the film breathe.

Lionsgate’s brisk AVC encode spits out the grain structure without compromise, keen on delivering a filmic glaze even if the texture doesn’t sport consistent positives. For all of the sharpness being tossed around, there’s not much focus on capturing the tightest details. Faces have a flatness and clothes are more or less there. Even aerials of the city are on the lifeless side of HD, but it’s not bad in any sense. It’s just sort of blah.

A lot is salvaged with hearty contrast, almost all of Money taking place outdoors with natural lighting. If not, the interiors are situated by windows that allow that same light room to infect the image with pleasantries. Black levels are more than willing to scrape by until the contrast’s return, delivering on their end with power, preservation of detail, and depth.

The range of this image, from the variety of amped up color and rigid, unwavering contrast gives the film enough digital punch to be immediately appealing, even if technically it’s a bit of wash. Money sells itself on its energy, visual or otherwise, and despite the weakness of low standards for high-fidelity detail, it’s a hard disc to ignore. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

For a mindless feminine adventure, there are moments where the audio mix has the opportunity to showcase its pizazz. Dual scenes in the gun range are wonderful, punching up the LFE for each shot while echoing out into the open space. The soundfield is strong, enough to place the viewer in the midst of the comedy. City streets have the feel of being full and expansive, whether it’s just heavy wind or cars passing by.

There’s even an explosion, a car going up in flames that comes out of nowhere. The burst of activity is a wake up call. Debris lightly scatters while the flames flare up into each channel. This is a well balanced mix, taking those moments of heavy activity and working them in with the dialogue on equal level. It’s certainly a cut above the expectation. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Making the Money leads the charge of bland bonus features, a promotional making of barely worth the space it takes up on the disc. Bond Girls details the work of actual female bounty hunters, their career choice, and the challenges. A gag reel is worth a handful of laughs, and a deleted scene was worth shooting if only for the two leads sake. Lionsgate bulks the disc up with trailers too, enough that a dozen need to be force skipped just to find the menu. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


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