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June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Bounty Hunters (1996, Dimension, Blu-Ray)


...there's definitely something to be said about the unique appeal to films about bounty hunters...that eclectically anti-heroic, reputed pain-in-the-ass lot, who tend to cut against the grain of authority with their own rules, doing whatever it takes, and acting just enough outside the law, to not outright get themselves dirty, in the process of doing what they do best...bringing in the bad guys, for a price. Unbound by the staunch, rigored and disciplined regiment, regularly upheld by established law enforcement, they waywardly act of their own accord...sometimes quite recklessly, and often enough...gruff, raw & unorthodoxed...maintaining a frustratingly reciprocative love/hate relationship with the underlining, behind-the-scenes authority figures, who reluctantly, albeit needfully hires them out to do the job required, on a level outside of the restrictive boundaries of the law. As such, we cannot help but relish this brand of cinematic anti-hero, and their devil-may-care philosophies & attitudes because, quite frankly, as most of us are ourselves bound by the restrictive and sometimes obstacle-riddled set rules of our respective vocations, whatever they might be, we secretly fantasize being able to rebelliously operate outside of those rules...daringly and forbiddingly embracing and exhuing that 'devil-may-care' attitude...in an effort to get the same job done...perhaps even better, as time and time again, often does occur with film-rendered bounty hunters. For this viewer, a crust of personal favorites in that respect...covering a pretty wide spectrum...include 1986's "Wanted: Dead or Alive (...with Rutger '@#$% the bonus' Hauer), 1980's "Tom Horn", 1992's "Unforgiven", 1977's "Bare Knuckles", 1988's "Midnight Run", and oh yes, let's not forget about last year's "Django Unchained". And surprisingly enough, there's just might be enough room in this respected lot to include the ruggedly charming and jovial direct-to-video retro-actioner...recently upgraded to the Blu-Ray format...1996's "Bounty Hunters"...


...Jersey Bellini, a ruggedly handsome, albeit matted-haired, sloppy looking rogue...recklessly confident, albeit neurotic, and even more than a bit paranoid (...the compulsive setting-up of various booby traps inside his abode, is a dead giveaway, in the latter respect)...but still, quite doggedly reliable, in his unconventional vocation as bounty hunter...has a problem. It seems that often, his ex-beau, B.B....also a bounty hunter for-hire...always coincidentally manages to find herself in pursuit of the same escaped 'pigeon' as he, which invariably leads to competitive bickering between them...and sometimes, the ensuing and inadvertent escape of the opportunist pursuee, in the process...which uh, doesn't exactly bode well for either of them, as far as bank. In the midst of one such chase, involving an evasively slippery car thief, they both find themselves assuming the reluctant custody of a sexy, bubble-headed escort, cloistered in the trunk of one of the car thief's abandoned acquisitions...relegated for permanent 'snooze' by the mob, as the result of the escort having witnessed a recent mob hit. Folded into this potentially dangerous, unstable powderkeg of a situation...a young waif of a lad...Jersey's precocious, street-savvy next door neighbor kid, who maintains a befriending appreciation for Jersey's unpredictable occupation...and whom of course, the mob keys in on, captures and holds for 'safe custody', until a trade can be rendered between them and the two haplessly determined, interfering bounty hunters. Will the mob succeed in spearheading their intent upon eliminating all of the associated and interfering 'loose ends', in these proceedings?? Will justice ultimately prevail in jumping into the fray, and saving the day?? And for God's sake, will Jersey and B.B. stop their bickering long enough to assume their role in said justice, stop the mob in their tracks, rescue the captives, and...and...well, as suggested before, 'save the (...so-called) day', in the process??...

...actually, as predictably standard and forgettable as this diverting little 'B' flick actioner might have been, "Bounty Hunters" is somewhat uplifted to something slightly greater than that, with the ideal casting of Michael Dudikoff, in the roguish role of Jersey; as laboriously prolific as Michael's career has been, over the past 30 some-odd years...having pretty much been relegated to similar roguish hero performances, in countless other 'B' flicks...this viewer, as well as the most devoted of film-fan-philes...has singularly known him best as...yes folks, Joe Armstrong, in Cannon Films' classic '80's martial arts action franchise, "American Ninja", and most of the film's subsequent sequels. The advent of having starred in a good number of direct-to-video action quickies, over the years, has clearly given Michael a chance to hone his abilities as an action-based character actor, as compared to his "American Ninja" days...quiet, kindred, almost spiritual...that is, until crossed. By comparison, his performance in "Bounty Hunters" is amusingly more likable, dynamic and greater in depth...though action-wise, more outwardly goofish and brutishly punch-pounding, than his choreographed martial arts days. Cast alongside Michael's 'Jersey' character, and equal to the challenge as his wise-cracking, femininely brutish competition, actress Lisa Howard...herself, an underappreciately prolific character actress, in her own right...is the perfect foil as B.B., an amusingly annoying fly in the ointment of Jersey's past, yet an equal foil...a quickly reciprocative tit, for his tat, so to speak. Lisa deftly plays her role, as one in conflict; on one hand, she still very much appreciates her old flame...as roguishly egotistic as she knows him to be...but on the other hand, business IS business...and she is not one to let Jersey have one-up on her, so easily. It is the amiable chemistry, despite the comically conflicting relationship between the two of them, which also brings the standard proceedings of this contrived, 'uh, so what' flavored flick, to a level higher than any other run-of-the-mill actioner of it's kind...if anything, at least enough to sustain and warrant further adventures of these two likable characters, a year later, in the follow-up...1997's "Hardball" (...aka, of course, "Bounty Hunters 2")...

...for overall watchability, this amusing little trifle is not exactly the best of it's kind, but by far, not exactly the worst, either. In fact, this viewer would probably have to place this one...eh, place this one...let's see...eh, where's that niche...where is it...where...Oh, THERE it is, right there...about two or three notches above average. A slight head-tilting, contemplative, 'hmmmm'-satisfying piece of diversionary flickage...far from enriching, but hardly a waste of time, either.....

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