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Katherine Heigl further continues her downward spiral in the film industry with her latest offerin; which is a great shame, because she was quite excellent in the hit US medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" for which she won the Emmy and solidly established a name for herself. What followed were reasonable romantic comedies, but now she has reached that stage where she seems to be saying yes to any project that comes her way. Most incomprehensible is her decision to agree to "One for the Money," which marks the lowest of the low of her career. Looking like a cheap, worse rehash of Jennifer Aniston's critical flop "The Bounty Hunter," (yes, Heigl's latest is truly worse than an Aniston film) Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter who tries to take down an old flame of hers, which would guarantee her 50,000 dollars.
Down on her luck, out of a job and desperate for money, she enters the bounty hunting business without ever having fired a gun or knowing how to approrach dangerous criminals who have skipped bail. She stumbles on Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara), who is wanted for shooting someone in cold blood. What starts as a quest strictly for money, through many confrontations with Morelli himself, she begins uncovering a deeper, more complicated web of lies and corruption that might just prove that Morelli might be innocent after all. No prizes for guessing where Morelli's loyalties lie, more obvious is what will happen between the two leads.
There is very little wrong with being predictable. Familiar endings come time and time again because ultimately, they work. We groan and moan about how there's a lack of originality in Hollywood these days, and yet even the films with the most foreseeable endings do manage to make money at the box office. The formula works, and I personally have no problem with rom-coms or action films following a similar narrative. If there is something that surprises, that's an extra bonus for sure, but by no means would I criticise for an age old method that has worked over many, many years.
What I would complain about is how with "One for the Money," there is not a single lead performance that is worthy of much priase. There is plenty of comedy potential with Stephanie here, with this job being her first ever in which she has to carry a gun. But in the midst of Heigl trying to put on the most unconvincing, uncomfortable Italian-American accent, you know, the kind that Cher absolutely nailed in "Moonstruck," and her running around like a useless, whiny idiot somehow putting all the pieces together already signals the film for failure. She is supposed to be incompetent, and Heigl absolutely nails that aspect of being an absolute waste of space. Her attempts to look somehow modern, hip and slick never work out, thanks both to Heigl's uninspired performance and the lazy script that prevents much character build-up.
Then there are the instantly forgettable supporting players. O'Mara does have enough macho cheek to balance humour and action, his chemistry with Heigl is not a total disaster but his character is never interesting enough for the audience to truly care for him or events surrounding him. He's essentially a good guy looking like a bad guy who ultimately turns out to be the hero, with all sorts of criminals and cops after him because of important information only he seems to know. It's the same old bad-boy scenario and with such a thinly drawn plot, he never becomes important or stand-out enough to ever attract much interest.
Because this centres around an unmarried, unemployed woman, her family must also enter the picture. She has her parents, and her grandmother, all played by decent actors, but totally wasted with a wide range of lame humour that never hit the mark. Even the great veteran Debbie Reynolds cannot salvage much in the grandma role who isn't afraid to speak her mind no matter how rude or inappropriate her thoughts may be. They want her to get married, get a new job, and her mother in particular is very concerned that she eats well. Because...you know, they're from an Italian heritage. It's a repetitive cycle that never catches on, which is a tremendous shame because individually, Louis Mostillo, Debra Monk and Reynolds have achieved much more in the past with better projects. Daniel Sunjata also makes an all-too-brief appearance as Ranger, a cold, seemingly emotionless tough guy who becomes a mentor to Stephanie. He does have some sporadically amusing moments, but his purpose in this is also unclear, and much of what he does ends up being highly inconsequential.
More troubling is the plot's inconsistency and unwillingness to genuinely focus on one genre. It tries to juggle a crime story of multiple strands, betrayals and double-crossings, it wants to heat up the romance and passion between the two leads, it occasionally tries to inject some action into the film, whilst very unsuccessfully wanting it to be funny as well. It's a tough combination only a handful of films can get absolutely right. Even in the short running time there is a huge imbalance and confusion with tone, and the tiresome, repetitive sequences in which Plum chases around random bits of evidence is painfully dull, and towards the end and hopeless so-called climax, it would be wise to just stop caring about the whole laboured, amateurish process.
It would come as a surprise to learn that this is actually based on a best-selling book. Perhaps the character Stephanie did a lot more in the book than what Heigl is given to do here. Whatever happened during the transition phase of book-to-film, something must have gone seriously wrong. Because with this effortless feature, Heigl has managed to come up with one of the worst films of 2012.
Sometimes I find myself in the cinema watching a film I'd never normally bother with in a million years, purely because my daughter wants to see it. I am her mother and accept that as an occupational hazard. On very rare occasions however I find myself in the cinema watching a film neither of us would normally bother with a million years, which is how I found myself watching the latest Katherine Heigl flop, "One For the Money".
The trip to the cinema was arranged by a local branch of the National Autistic Society for teenagers and I readily agreed to this feeling reasonably confident the film chosen would be "The Muppets" as this is the sort of film that would appeal to all ages. Even when I got the text to say the film was going to be "One For the Money" I wasn't initially too bothered except for thinking it may not be something my daughter would enjoy.
The film is based on Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. I haven't read any of the books but it's a hugely popular franchise and as a result there has been an air of anticipation amongst fans about this film. Unfortunately the US release in January without any screenings for critics was the first hint that this film is a turkey.
Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. Her marriage has broken up and she has lost her job in the lingerie department in Macy's. She needs a job but finding one in her hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, is proving impossible.
Eventually she is taken on by her cousin Vinnie at his bail bond business as a bounty hunter. Rather than go for easy prey for quick money she is drawn to the case of Joe Morelli, a cop who is wanted for murder. Stephanie has harboured a grudge against Morelli ever since he took her virginity and failed to call her back. Because of their personal history she is determined to bring him in - but Stephanie is quickly to realise she has a lot to learn about being a bounty hunter.
I am going to be blunt and say there really isn't much I can say that's positive about this film. Debbie Reynolds is clearly having a ball playing Stephanie's Grandma Mazur, and there's some genuine humour involving a naked old man but that's really about it.
Heigl is irritating as Stephanie, a woman who is so ridiculously inept it's difficult to believe a woman created the character. Of course maybe Evanovich didn't create a character so inept so I should be blaming female director Julie Anne Robinson instead but it sticks in the craw as a woman to see such a helpless individual as our heroine - even Disney create princesses with a bit more nous than Ms Plum.
Every time Stephanie messes up - and it happens fairly regularly - she has to turn to a man for help, usually Ranger, who is an expert shot and knows the bounty hunting game well. Played by Daniel Sunjata, Ranger is fairly likeable - which is more than I can say about Jason O'Mara as Joe Morelli. There is only a slight frisson of chemistry between O'Mara and Heigl, and there's nothing in O'Mara's performance that I really found likeable, with the possible exception of his toned chest and abs.
The plot involves Stephanie regularly encountering Morelli but never bringing him in. Yes she's inept but using these encounters as a plot device just reiterate how inept she is - especially when she's supposed to have someone as smart as Ranger helping her out.
The supporting cast aren't much better. Sherrie Shepherd plays tart with a heart Lula like a caricature, all popping eyes and flailing hands. Ana Reeder has a pointless part as Stephanie's friend Connie. She is seen talking to Stephanie on the phone about various things but as she never shares screen time with any other character and her input doesn't affect the story at all, I don't know what she's doing there.
The film seems to be loaded with caricatures, especially the bad guys, meaning it's impossible for any of the actors to do a decent performance. The only supporting actor who does seem capable of rising above it all a little is Adam Paul as the perfectly named Bernie Kuntz. Bernie carries a torch for Stephanie but is the ultimate creep, openly telling Stephanie that he can feel his biological clock ticking over a family dinner. Paul conveys this slimeball's desperation convincingly enough to make me cringe and it's to his credit that he's managed to do this in a film filled with non-entities.
The only thing I can say in the supporting cast's favour is at least they look like real people, unlike the leads who look completely out of place, for all the dressing down the wardrobe department has done with Heigl.
The direction is terrible too. I could see what was coming ages before something happened and I felt I was continually being told to suspend disbelief over some of Stephanie's scrapes. The film is supposed to blend action with humour but there was only one scene which had any real action with everything else being run of the mill and not particularly surprising. Heck, the film even used that age old device of having the master criminal admit his guilt in a lengthy speech - didn't that go out of date around the time Humphrey Bogart stopped playing Sam Spade?
Once the ending came and everything was, as is to be expected, neatly tied up in a couple of scenes I felt a huge sense of relief. The running time was only 90 minutes but they could easily have shaved 30 minutes off that to both speed up things and improve the quality of my life.
"One For the Money" is a terrible film - there's sadly no denying it. The cast are limited by a poor script, a director who seems happy to portray a female lead as a nincompoop and a cast of supporting characters who could have come straight from Central Casting, right down to the guy whose character is called Flat Nosed Louis.
Please do not waste your time or your money watching this except if you are either terminally bored or you are on a mission to see every Debbie Reynolds film ever made. It really is that bad I am afraid - even my none too fussy daughter loathed it.