Review for One For The Money
If there is one real existing profession that translates to film, it’s that of the Bounty Hunter. Of course Bounty Hunters only really exist in countries where the police are too fat to get up off their arses and do their jobs, but indeed, in the United States, those accused of crimes that break their bail conditions and flee, are often pursued by private citizens working as bounty hunters. It’s a system that has worked for hundreds of years, and that is reflected in cinema. The dead or alive poster is a staple of Westerns, and films like True Grit and For a Few Dollars More make stars of the professionals. In sci-fi the most famous bounty hunter of them all has to be Boba Fett, while anime fans had the superlative Cowboy Bebop series and movie to enjoy. And on TV, there were shows like The Fall Guy. But one thing all these shows and films have in common is that the protagonists are male. Female bounty hunters are definitely under-represented in film, and I can only think of Barb Wire and Domino as two films that stay in my memory. They stay there as I’ve vowed never to watch them, so poorly were they received.
One For The Money certainly seems to have the chops to succeed where other films have fallen. After all it’s based on an ongoing series of novels by Janet Evanovich which has made it to 26 volumes at the time of writing, not including short stories. That level of popularity ensures a loyal fan base if you can get the film right. Spoiler alert; One For The Money was made in 2011, and to date it’s the only film in the franchise, so this review is more about finding out what went wrong.
Stephanie Plum is divorced, has recently been made redundant from her job in retail selling lingerie, and is broke, her car having been repossessed. She needs a new job, and she’s desperate enough to agree to her grandmother’s suggestion that she go to her cousin Vinny, who runs a bail bonds office. The vacancy for a filing clerk has evaporated, but when Stephanie sees the name of Joe Morelli as a wanted fugitive, she decides to give hunting bounties a try. Joe Morelli took her virginity when they were teenagers, and he then never called. This is personal. But Joe Morelli jumped bail on a murder charge; he’s a dirty cop, and the more Stephanie looks into it, the more she realises that she’s in too deep.
One For The Money gets a 2.40:1 widescreen presentation with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English audio and English subtitles. The image is clear and sharp, the colours are consistent, and the audio comes across well enough. I initially thought that there was that imbalance between dialogue and action/music that was causing me to ride the remote, but it was actually the New Jersey accents that had me skipping back and flicking on the subtitles. The transfer is as flawless as you would expect for a recent film, and it’s all very watchable, directed well with a cinematic scope and strong production values.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray which boots directly to an animated menu. On the disc you’ll find trailers for Lord of the Rings Extended Edition, I Don’t Know How She Does It, The Rum Diary, Texas Killing Fields, and The Grey.
Making The Money: Behind the Scenes lasts 11:00, and offers interviews with the cast, the crew, and the books’ author.
The Gag Reel lasts 2:35, and there is a 45 second Deleted Scene.
I think Blade Runner has conditioned me to cringe away from any film that begins with a main character voice-over. There’s being faithful to the source novel, and there’s taking it too far, and unless you’re Thomas Magnum, you shouldn’t be narrating your own life. One For The Money begins with Stephanie Plum doing just that, and I didn’t have high hopes for the film. Thankfully, those low expectations might just have bought me enough time to appreciate the movie where many others have chosen not to. Frankly, I think that the media have had it in for Katherine Heigl since Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, and most films that she makes get reviewed as stinkers. No one except Uwe Boll has that kind of hit rate, but what do I know?
One For The Money, once you get past the voice-over is an enjoyable, light-hearted, action-comedy-thriller-romance melange that holds the attention, and entertains with lively characters and entertaining dialogue, even if its grasp on realism and believability is even more tenuous than the average Hollywood action-comedy-thriller-romance melange. There’s just something so effortless in the way that Stephanie Plum slips from the world of lingerie retail into professional skip-tracing that boggles the mind. Two trips to the shooting range turn her from a rank amateur into an expert marksman. If you can handle that level of flim-flammery, you should be okay with not getting your suspenders of disbelief entangled while watching One For The Money.
It’s fun, it’s likeable, it moves at a lively pace, and the story makes sense. The characters and their interactions elevate what could be a forgettable, by the numbers movie into something less so, although it’s often the supporting cast who make a bigger impression. Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur effortlessly steals the movie in every scene she appears.
One For The Money has one problem though, which probably explains its poor performance. It’s just not big enough a feature film. It’s certainly got the theatrical scope, and the cinematography and editing do justice to the director’s vision, but this is a film that feels like a TV movie, made with broadcast standards and practices in mind. The violence lacks any sense of brutality and edge, the film is seemingly bloodless, this criminal underworld talks as if it’s in Sunday school, and the action and stunts are neither big, nor impactful. It lacks the bite that a comedy-thriller needs.
That really is maybe where the adventures of Stephanie Plum should reside, on television. You have the wonderful cast of supporting characters, all of whom get enough development in the film to tantalise, but never enough to satisfy, you have a quirky sense of humour which really could have been even stronger, and in author Janet Evanovich’s bibliography you have enough source material to last several seasons. I could see this as a TV show occupying that same kind of esoteric niche that Due South did once upon a time, but as a feature film, One For The Money does enough to put a smile on your face, but nowhere near enough to satisfy.