Film Review: One for the Money (2012)

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Katherine Heigl is not a very Italian sounding name. Yet in One for the Money she inexplicably attempts to convince you she’s Italian American Stephanie Plum using nothing but an horrific spray tan and a possibly even more horrific attempt at an accent.

Heigl produces and stars in the first big screen adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s bestselling series of female bounty hunter novels. In the novels, Plum is of Hungarian-Italian descent, so it is understandable the attempt is made to stay true to this aspect of the character. But to be frank, those behind the film would have been better off hiring an actress of Italian descent, or dispensing with this aspect of the character. This is made all the more frustrating because the first part of the film is really quite engaging. Crime fiction tropes are gleefully engaged with, chief among them a hard boiled voiceover, and Heigl’s character starts off as a down on her luck and unemployed, like all the great detectives.

However before too long many more frustrations will begin to vie for your attention because after the story starts, this peters out terribly. Julie Anne Robinson‘s direction and Jim Whitaker‘s cinematography could not be flatter. The dialogue grates, or more precisely the delivery of it is extremely poor. The over the top gumshoe detective dialogue the film is aiming for could work really well with good actors, but they are few and far in between here.

Heigl is actually not too bad, showing enough sass when she forgets about her accent (which is often), but she is surrounded by a supporting cast that with one exception (Daniel Sunjata as Ranger) are universally bad. The storyline is far too low key. Plum is a bounty hunter attempting to bring in a former flame (Jason O’Mara). And there is no logic behind the main crime, no clues that build up to a conclusion. The eventual reveal of the main ‘baddie’ just shows how little thought has gone into the film’s construction. He just appears from behind a truck with a gun, tells the audience he’s the bad guy and this is what he’s done in a piece of horrid expository dialogue (think Hardy Boys bad) and that’s it.

The problems with this film run even deeper. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t really like my female detectives to need the man they’re supposedly hunting down to repeatedly save them the moment they’re in danger. It is also concerning how easily she falls back in love with the bad-boy hunk who has already wronged her once (not to mention the disregarding of the murder accusations hanging over his head). This is about as un-feminist a film can be when it is about a female detective (or bounty hunter or whatever). Never mind that, Plum is as passive as a detective protagonist can be, no matter the sex. She doesn’t investigate clues or partake in any real action and generally just fails to get anywhere in her new job, except for when the blokes help her out.

The seeds are laid in the final few scenes for what the studio I’m sure was hoping would be an inevitable sequel. It won’t be. The film is far too woeful to warrant anyone bothering either making it, or going to watch it.

One for the Money was theatrically released in Australia on February 16 through Roadshow Films.

Tim Hoar writes Not Now I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie. You can keep up to date with the blog by liking his Facebook page here.

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