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  One for the Money No Bail for the Bondswoman
Year: 2012
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Stars: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo, Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds, Debra Monk, Nate Mooney, Adam Paul, Fisher Stevens, Anna Reeder, Patrick Fischler, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Leonardo Nam, Annie Parisse
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Newly divorced, broke, jobless and desperate, Jersey girl Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) gets a job as a bail bondsman despite lacking any experience as a bounty hunter. Her first target proves to be Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), an old boyfriend who seduced then dumped her back in high school. Now Joe is a cop on the run accused of murder. Eager for some payback as well as that huge cash reward, Stephanie sets off on Joe’s trail but her efforts to apprehend him prove disastrous. At one point he even breaks into her apartment and leaves her handcuffed naked to the shower. Gradually, under the tutelage of seasoned bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), Stephanie learns the ropes. But while investigating the case, in the face of escalating danger, she comes to suspect Joe might be innocent.

Former romance novelist Janet Evanovich discovered she preferred writing action sequences to sex scenes and won a fan following with her series of light-hearted thrillers about female bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. Few proved as warm towards this big screen adaptation starring one-woman chick flick factory Katherine Heigl. Heigl’s neurotic screen persona rubs some people up the wrong way, but viewed from a certain perspective her career is fascinating. She develops and produces her own projects mounting variations on a formula tailored to appeal to a largely female fanbase who respond to plucky, if occasionally hapless heroines struggling to juggle career, family and romance. At her worst Heigl is capable of trainwrecks as godawful as The Ugly Truth (2009) but now and again delivers something unexpectedly affecting, as was the case with Life As We Know It (2010) or more often innocuous and sweet as with 27 Dresses (2008). While their merits as art are debatable, chances are Heigl’s vehicles will provide future film historians with an intriguing snapshot of our era’s attitude towards women. Plus she does sport one of the most appealing smiles in the movie business.

It is easy to see why Heigl was drawn to this material given Evanovich crafts a familiar tale of a heroine trying to make it in a hitherto exclusively male world. Every man Stephanie Plum meets is either openly hostile or unable to take her seriously. Following the similarly gimmicky Killers (2010), One for the Money marks Heigl’s second shot at action-comedy though don’t expect much shoot-’em-up fun. Stephanie Plum is no kickass superwoman in the mould of, say, Elmore Leonard’s Karen Sisco. In fact the central conceit of Evanovich’s books is that Plum is barely competent at best. Throughout the story she repeatedly misjudges situations, is outwitted by Joe Morelli and other suspects, gets people killed or hurt and proves less than capable at all the action stuff. All of which is admittedly faithful to Evanovich’s work but which does not make it any less disheartening that our heroine needs a man to bail her out of a sticky situation.

While the arc of the narrative details Stephanie’s growing more confident, tough and competent - as signalled in classic chick flick fashion via a makeover, swapping sappy dresses for an admittedly compelling tight jeans and sleeveless top ensemble - the change does not really occur until the closing minutes. For the most part, it remains a world where men stay in control and Stephanie never quite shakes the psychological hold Joe has on her. The film seems uncertain about who the love interest is supposed to be, for while sparks fly between Stephanie and hunky bail bondsman Ranger (“What is he, an action figure?”) she seemingly remains infatuated with smug misogynist Joe Morelli. British filmmaker Julie Anne Robinson, who made the surreal musical thriller-drama Blackpool (2005) with David Tennant and The Last Song (2010) a dramatic vehicle for teen star Miley Cyrus, never puts pedal to the metal consequently exposing the shapelessness of the multi-authored screenplay. In keeping with the novels, the plot is equally fixated on Stephanie’s domestic squabbles with her family who include Debbie Reynolds as her wisecracking grandma. There are a few amusing scenes including one where Stephanie apprehends an elderly nudist, her encounter with a jolly meth lab owner (Leonardo Nam) and a running gag with characters flummoxed over how she looks so great on an all junk food diet, but the thriller aspect runs slack.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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