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March 28, 2010

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Little more than face-time with attractive stars

IN Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight," George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez memorably created romantic sparks while huddled in the trunk of a car. By contrast, the action-laden romantic-comedy "The Bounty Hunter" begins with Jennifer Aniston bursting out of a trunk in a smoky blaze of ignited flares as Gerard Butler chases after her.

As incubators of chemistry, the trunk of "Out of Sight" has the stuff, while "The Bounty Hunter" is up in smoke.

Butler, the buff, smirking Scottish star, plays Milo Boyd, a former cop turned bounty hunter who gets the job of his life: the opportunity to drag his ex-wife (Aniston) to jail.

As Nicole Hurley, Aniston, somewhat incredibly, is a hard-nosed crime reporter who, while tenaciously pursuing a lead on a suspicious murder on the Lower East Side, misses a court appearance and the judge issues a warrant for her arrest.

But neither actor is playing a character as much as they're playing movie stars. At no point in "The Bounty Hunter" are you anything but fully aware that you're watching Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Perhaps that's the idea.

For better and worse, it's an opportunity to sit in the dark with these two likable, attractive stars, rather than piece together distorted glimpses of them in the tabloids.

Here is Aniston smartly dressed in tight skirts and heels, composed and discombobulated at once; and Butler: brash, unshaven, a little sweaty.

Exactly why Milo and Nicole split after a relatively brief marriage is never specified (she was too career-focused, he says; he wasn't understanding, she says), but they certainly can't stand each other anymore.

Thrown back together, they gradually rehash the past as they travel from Atlantic City back to New York, their course repeatedly thrown off by various attackers.

Divorce has often been excellent fodder for comedies (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in the superb "The Awful Truth" is the gold standard).

But "The Bounty Hunter" has little to offer besides some face-time with handsome stars.


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