Film Review: One for the Money

Janet Evanovich's best-selling Stephanie Plum series deserved better than this woefully executed, stillborn attempt at a franchise.

It took 18 years for a screen version of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling comic thrillers about New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum to hit the screen, and it should take little more than a weekend to erase any chance of it becoming a franchise. Starring a painfully awkward Katherine Heigl, One for the Money mostly resembles a failed television pilot, a feeling which is only reinforced by its late-January release and failure to be screened for critics.

Sporting brown hair, a drab wardrobe and a wobbly Jersey accent as the unemployed former lingerie saleswoman turned “recovery agent,” Heigl tries hard throughout. But she’s undone by the schizophrenic nature of the material, which unsuccessfully wavers from comedy to thriller without scoring on either front.

Director Julie Anne Robinson, working from a screenplay by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius, seems to be trying for dark humor, as evidenced by such episodes as a character being blown to bits by a car bomb essentially becoming a punch line. It also is telling that the only two senior citizens on display are a geriatric exhibitionist and a dotty grandma (Debbie Reynolds, in a career nadir) who shoots a gun at a turkey dinner.

The cutesy plot revolves around Plum’s first assignment, to capture a possibly corrupt and murderous cop (Jason O’Mara) who also happened to relieve her of her virginity years earlier. The tiresome cat-and-mouse game between the gruff fugitive and his clearly still-enamored pursuer resembles a gender-switching variation of 2010’s The Bounty Hunter, and we all know how well that film turned out.

Strangely, while there’s little romantic chemistry between Heigl and O’Mara, there’s plenty between her and Daniel Sunjata as a mentoring fellow bounty hunter whom Plum describes as “Michelangelo’s David dipped in caramel” and who rescues her on several occasions. Sunjata’s droll underplaying enlivens every scene he’s in, providing a taste of what the film might have been.

Several of the supporting players deliver entertainingly pungent comic turns, including Sherri Shepherd as a gregarious hooker, Fisher Stevens as an ill-fated rival of Plum’s and Patrick Fischler as her bail-bondsman cousin. On the other hand, John Leguizamo, as a sleazy boxing-gym owner, deserves far better material.

Although the film’s official running time is listed as 106 minutes, it actually seemed closer to 90. Not that anyone’s going to be complaining.
The Hollywood Reporter