ONE FOR THE MONEY

Reviewed by GREG KING

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, Patrick Fischler, Ana Reeder, Annie Parisse, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Leonardo Nam, Gavin-Keith Umeh, Louis Mustillo.

The comic crime film One For The Money has been released into cinemas without media previews, which is never a good sign. The film is based on the first novel in Janet Evanovich’s long-running series featuring the character of Stephanie Plum, a former lingerie saleswoman who gets a job as a bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey. One For The Money was previously filmed as a tv movie in 2002, starring Lynn Collins as Plum. This big screen adaptation stars Katherine Heigl (from Grey’s Anatomy, etc) as Plum, but if the producers were hoping that this film would be the launching pad for a potential new franchise they have badly miscalculated both the appeal of the character and the strength of the film.
It also recalls the recent Gerard Butler/Jennifer Aniston turkey The Bounty Hunter, but not in a flattering way. Here though the gender roles have been reversed. This is a flat, pedestrian and laboured film that suffers the same fate as Kathleen Turner’s mediocre attempt to launch a franchise with V I Warshawsky, based on Sara Paretsky’s series of novels about a tough female private eye.
Divorced and unemployed, Plum reluctantly accepts a job as a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), a job for which she is ill-prepared for. But with the bills mounting she is desperate for the money she will earn tracking down felons. And there is also the chance for some payback against Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), with whom she shares a history. Morelli is a cop who has been charged with the murder of a local drug dealer, but has gone into hiding. However, despite her lack of experience, Plum sets out to bring him in.
She gets advice, and some tools of the trade, from veteran bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata). Murder, double-crosses, a motor-mouthed prostitute (Sherri Shepherd), and a colourful cast of villainous characters liven up the formulaic plot.
There are enough holes in the convoluted plot to drive a fleet of SVUs through. One For The Money is the first feature film written by Stacy Sherman (the intriguingly titled short Goodnight, Vagina), Karen Ray and television writer Liz Brixius (Nurse Jackie) and their inexperience shows in the uneven tone and off kilter balance between black humour and action.
There is zero chemistry or sexual tension between Heigl and O’Mara despite their occasional banter. This is another dud for Heigl, whose ambitions of a big screen career as a leading lady seem to be faltering due her choice of projects. Heigl seems to be playing a variation on the type of one-dimensional character she has played on-screen before, and there is little nuance to her performance and she doesn’t seem invested in the character. Her dry and humourless voice over narration also does little to propel the narrative forwards. This feels like the type of film Heigl (who is also credited as one of the producers) has done purely for the money!
Debbie Reynolds pops up as Plum’s feisty grandmother, but she is wasted in her couple of scenes.
Julie Anne Robinson is a veteran director of tv series, including Grey’s Anatomy where she worked with both Heigl and Sunjata, but her handling of the material is rather tired and uninspired. The film looks and feels like a failed pilot for a tv series. Evanovich’s novels are popular, but even fans of the Plum series will be disappointed with this dull and lifeless adaptation.

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