New comedy disappoints on every front

The best part of Katherine Heigl’s new flick, One for the Money, happens before the movie starts:  It’s waiting in line for popcorn and a soda.

Crime comedy · Katherine Heigl (center) portrays a bounty hunter who must chase down a high-school fling. One for the Money proves unconvincing in every way, from Heigl’s performance to the undeveloped plot. - Photo courtesy of EPK.TV

In this sad adaptation of best-selling author Janet Evanovich’s novel of the same title, Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, a Jersey-dwelling lingerie saleswoman-turned-bounty hunter. Facing unemployment and possible eviction,  Plum is forced to approach her cousin Vinny to see if he has any openings at his bail bonds business. The job she gets isn’t what she expects: She winds up as a bail bonds enforcement agent, also referred to as a bounty hunter.

Curiously enough, her first bounty is for high school fling Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a former cop wanted for murder. With the help of fellow bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), Plum manages to track down Morelli, but soon becomes entangled in a case that is much more complicated than she first believed.

To put it bluntly, the film fails to deliver on all fronts.

Sporting a lackluster brown hairdo and a drab wardrobe to match, Heigl comes across as painfully awkward and uncommitted in her portrayal of the supposed heroine. Though Heigl is an arguably decent actress with strong performances in movies such as 2007’s Knocked Up, she drowns in this film, failing to capture Plum’s wit, sass and pluck, which were conveyed in Evanovich’s novels.

Heigl’s performance is blasé, almost as if she knew the film would be a dud from the get-go but figured she might as well go through with it because she had already dyed her hair. To make matters worse, Heigl narrates the entire film in a sad attempt at a Jersey accent that sounds disinterested and almost sleepy in its delivery.

Heigl, however, is not the only actor whose subpar performance catapults the film into D-minus territory. Her “romantic interest” Morelli, played by the usually charming Irish-born Jason O’Mara, suffers from a similar disinterest and disengagement with his character — not to mention that the intended spark between Heigl and O’Mara is practically nonexistent, making the attempt at on-screen chemistry almost comical. The idea of the two having a steamy high-school fling seems light years away in One for the Money, as they seem to barely know each other, much less have once slept together.

The only redeeming quality of the movie comes from Sunjata’s performance as Ranger, Heigl’s mysterious mentor and fellow bounty hunter. Sunjata lends a dimension of mystique and intrigue to his character that surfaces in the few fleeting moments of on-screen excitement.

Curiously, Heigl and Sunjata have more on-screen chemistry than Heigl and O’Mara as her intended romantic interest. It’s surely an unintended effect that could have gone toward salvaging the film if their relationship had been spotlighted in the script instead of the one between Heigl and O’Mara.

Despite mediocre performances on nearly all accounts, One for the Money’s failure isn’t entirely the actors’ fault. The script is disjointed and lacks any sort of measurable story arc, instead playing out onscreen as a weaker and more long-winded television show than a feature-length film.

This might be because director Julie Anne Robinson seems to dabble with an episodic film structure, but the additional lack of motivation in performances and the absence of a uniting sense of purpose is inexcusable.

The film seems more like a series of unimportant events that are never really tied together. Additionally, the dialogue is perplexingly forced and unnatural. It serves to further annoy the audience instead of providing any insight, dimension or likability to the characters.

One for the Money is ironically labeled a “comic thriller” — the film wavers unsteadily between  comedy and thriller, but it is never funny or thrilling enough to merit the title of either.

If you are — for whatever reason — considering seeing One for the Money, it simply isn’t worthwhile.

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