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1 item from 2004

The Big Bounce

30 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »


Friday, Jan. 30

Hollywood's rediscovery of novelist Elmore Leonard, a prime source for Westerns before he turned to tales of crime and bottom-feeding opportunists, has resulted in cinematic riches ranging from "52 Pick-Up" and "Get Shorty", to "Out of Sight" and "Jackie Brown".

"The Big Bounce", culled from his 1969 novel, will never join the ranks of great Leonard screen adaptations. It's too loose and casual, all too willing to trade the writer's trademark wit and literary mischief for slapstick comedy. While its theatrical career will be short, its shelf life in video/DVD should be better. Late at night, when one craves undemanding, forgettable amusement, "The Big Bounce" should provide enough bounce to entertain.

Jack Ryan, a migrant worker with a flexible sense of morality and a penchant for getting into trouble, drifted through several of Leonard Early's crime novels, usually set in Leonard's hometown of Detroit or parts of rural Michigan. George Armitage, who has directed movies set in Michigan ("Grosse Point Blank") and tropical climes ("Miami Blues"), clearly prefers the latter. He and writer Sebastian Gutierrez transpose the story from a Michigan resort town to the North Shore of Hawaii's Oahu. This adds surfing, exotic scenery and a tropical decadence one associates with Somerset Maugham's short stories set in the South Seas. However, this tourist destination lacks the ambiance of a backwater community, where corruption and venality can easily flourish.

Owen Wilson plays Jack, who in the movie's opening sequence cold-cocks his foreman (Vinnie Jones) on a construction job with a baseball bat. When he gets out of jail 30 days later, Bob Jr. (Charlie Sheen), a flunky for the shady real estate developer Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise) who hired him, warns Jack to vanish from the island, advice Jack cheerfully ignores.

Surprisingly, a district judge (Morgan Freeman) offers Jack a job as caretaker for a seaside retreat he owns. As if this weren't enough of a lure to stay on, Jack spies Ray's mistress, Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster), a lithe, thrill-seeking beauty who specializes in breaking hearts and get-rich-quick schemes. Wisely, Jack doesn't trust her further than he can throw her. Unwisely, he is eager to gather her into his arms anyway.

"The Big Bounce" doesn't play out in the manner of current caper films. Leonard stories pay more attention to character and milieu and less to building to a heart-pounding climax. Sometimes things don't happen

other times, characters change their minds or see a setup coming before getting trapped.

Armitage plays this one for laughs. Clearly lacking any conviction or much interest in these characters, the director lets his actors goof around in their roles. Wilson and Foster trade quips and dares, dress and undress -- preferably after sneaking into houses or boats they believe to be unoccupied -- but never take the story seriously. Freeman ambles through the movie, giving his scenes no more energy than they deserve.

Sheen and Jones have funny moments as the villain's dumb and dumber assistants. Bebe Neuwirth is an inspired choice to give sass to the cliche of the alcoholic, disillusioned wife of the nasty developer. Meanwhile, Sinise is barely in the movie. Harry Dean Stanton and Willie Nelson drop by to lend scrappy charm to a scene or two. And whenever the action grows stale, which is all too frequently, Armitage cuts to surfers riding giant waves at Waimea or Turtle Bay.

Island melodies waft through George S. Clinton's bouncy score. Cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball and designer Stephen Altman emphasize the vivid colors and luxurious abodes in the still relatively unspoiled surfers' paradise.


Warner Bros. Pictures

Shangri-La Entertainment presents a Material Films production


Director: George Armitage

Writer: Sebastian Gutierrez

Based on the novel by: Elmore Leonard

Producers: Steve Bing, Jorge Saralegui

Executive producers: Zane Weiner, Brent Armitage

Director of photography: Jeffrey L. Kimball

Production designer: Stephen Altman

Music: George S. Clinton

Costume designer: Betsy Cox

Editors: Brian Berdan, Barry Malkin.


Jack Ryan: Owen Wilson

Walter Crewes: Morgan Freeman

Nancy Hayes: Sara Foster

Bob Jr.: Charlie Sheen

Ray Ritchie: Gary Sinise

Lou Harris: Vinnie Jones

Joe Lurie: Willie Nelson

Alison Ritchie: Bebe Neuwirth

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating PG-13 Kate Bosworth

Pete: Topher Grace

Tad Hamilton: Josh Duhamel

Richard Levy the Driven: Nathan Lane

Richard Levy the Shameless: Sean Hayes

Henry: Gary Cole

Cathy Feely: Ginnifer Goodwin

Angelica: Kathryn Hahn

Running time -- 96 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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