Genre: Action Romantic Comedy
Premise: An alcoholic debt-ridden bounty hunter has two days to find and bring in his selfish manipulative dishonest ex-wife, who’s skipped bail.
About: Andy Tennant (“Hitch”) to direct. Starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler (who seems to be making a name for himself in the romantic comedy world). Sarah Thorp previously penned “Twisted”. This is shooting right now.
Writer: Sarah Thorp (1st draft, Sep 2007, 114 pages)
Now to be fair, this is the FIRST DRAFT of the screenplay, dated two years ago. So we know some changes have been made in the meantime. But it’s my guess that the basic premise and story are the same. And unfortunately, that’s the problem with The Bounty. This thing is more forced than an episode of The Bachelor. And I understand that the forced setup is a romantic comedy staple that’s been around for years. But there’s a difference between “forced” and “forcing it down our throats” – when the setup becomes so ridiculously over-the-top that it can only exist in the movie world. And that’s what’s happened here. This place that Thorp has invented only exists in Never Never Land. There is nothing plausible or realistic about any of the characters or situations in this movie.
That’s a really nice way of saying I detested this script.
Cassidy Daley is a gung-ho news reporter who will stop at nothing to get her story. She receives that “tip of a lifetime” about some potentially dirty cops from a source of hers named Jimmy. So off she goes into the seedy underworld to find him. Unfortunately along the way she does something illegal and gets arrested. She’s dragged off to jail, but immediately posts bail and skips her hearing. As far as she’s concerned, this front-page story is way more important than a silly bail formality.
Milo is a drunken gambling mess of a bounty hunter. He owes every bookie in town and is quite a ways from his prominent life as one of the best cops on the force. On the eve of getting roughed up by his bookies, Milo’s bail bondsman buddy, Sid, offers him a face-saving bounty. 5000 dollars if he can catch and bring back this person by Christmas Day (48 hours away). There’s just a slight twist. It’s his ex-wife, Cassidy! Ahhhhhhh!!! What are the chances?????
In case you haven’t guessed, Milo hates Cassidy. And Cassidy hates Milo. Even more than Milo hates Cassidy! These two really hate each other! Yet there’s something about this opportunity that makes scumbag Milo happy. You see Milo didn’t always used to be a scumbag. He used to be a successful cop with a bright future. Then he joined up with a reporter on an important case. And said reporter solved the case before he did and printed a story about it, making Milo look like an incapable moron. That led to their divorce. That led to his drinking. That led to his gambling. That led to his firing. And of course, this reporter’s name was Cassidy. Milo is convinced – CONVINCED – that Cassidey stole some information from him in order to solve the case. And he’s finally going to get her to admit it.
Milo’s actually pretty good at his job and it takes him less than an hour to find Cass. He handcuffs her and within seconds the pair is back to their old skitter-skatter rat-a-tat-tat verbal bantering ways. I hate you. No I hate you. No I hate you. No I hate you. No I hate you. No I hate both of you!!!
Milo is so obsessed and scarred by this ancient case, he becomes more than a little interested when Cass informs him that the whole reason she skipped bail was she was onto a huge story about a bunch of dirty cops. Milo realizes that this is it! A chance for him to redeem himself. He’ll solve her case within the 48 hour allotted time before he has to have her in. This will prove he’s smarter than Cass, which will in turn gain him his reputation back, which in turn may even get him his job back! All he has to do is keep Cass within sight and make sure she doesn’t run away. Which essentially means they have to do this…together!!! Snnnnnnnnnn-ap!
Yes, you read that right. Milo is doing this to prove that he’s smarter than Cassidy.
Stirring the pot is the bookie, Dwight, who’s chasing Milo for the thousands of dollars he owes, while Milo and Cass chase the story. Milo and Cass are then put through all the romantic comedy staples like being mistaken for a couple and having to sleep in the same bed (didn’t we *just* talk about this in Leap Year???). But since they used to be married and know all each others’ secrets, they’re constantly able to one-up each other, as evidenced in one scene where Cass sneaks a request to the waitress to add sesame seeds to Milo’s burger because…HE’S ALLERGIC TO THEM! As he chokes to death, Cass scuttles away!
Will they solve the crime? Will Milo still get Cass to the bondsman on time? Will I ever recover from this experience?
The Bounty feels like bad cosmetic surgery. Everything about it is fabricated and manipulated, twisted and pulled and chiseled and tucked in a desperate attempt to look natural. But no matter how you dress it up, it’s still bad cosmetic surgery. There is nothing authentic about this person!
Even the mechanics are all over the place. The order in which the information is offered to us for instance. All the stuff about Milo’s life falling apart because of the case he shared with Cass. We don’t find out about any of that until well after the two have rejoined each other. That’s the kind of information you have to tell us before the two meet so that when we hear the person he’s going after is his ex-wife, our mouths drop. “You mean the person that did all those horrible things to him?? Oh shit!” Without that information, she’s just a name to us. We don’t know a single thing about their history. It’s details like this that drove me batty and that I’m really hoping are just first draft glitches. I’m not saying you don’t want to save some details about the past for later on. But you don’t want to keep everything a secret!
Pretty much nothing in this screenplay works. I laughed one time (when Milo tells Cass to talk dirty to her and Cass sexually utters things like, “Sewage, waste, bacteria”) and pretty much rolled my eyes the rest of the way through. Ratio of laugh to eyeroll = 1 to 1000. The hope appears to rest on the pages upon pages of “witty banter.” But the truth is, I couldn’t even tell you if it worked. I was so put off by the artificiality in which the situations were created that they could’ve been reciting secret scrolls revealing the meaning of life and I still wouldn’t have been paying attention.
Having said all this, I can see from an actress’ point-of-view why this role would look appealing. It’s a bit different. And Aniston basically gets to be a bitch for 3 months of shooting (note to all writers: Actors and actresses love when they get to be assholes). But I don’t think she’s seeing the forest through the trees here. The Bounty jams the ‘art’ into artificial. Then bolds it and italicizes it and ups the font size – The Bounty - until it no longer resembles reality.
I can only hope that subsequent drafts have given this script new life. But I’m afraid the concept is too flawed. Therefore, I’m sorry to say but…
[x] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: There’s nothing less attractive than writing that’s trying too hard. If we can see you pulling the strings behind the curtain, the story loses its magic.