|Rating:PG-13 for some language and brief nudity
Starring: Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Sara Foster
Directed By: George Armitage
Have you ever had someone you really enjoy listening to tell you a story that is so uncharacteristic of them that you have to wonder what they’re thinking? That’s the feeling I had all throughout The Big Bounce, a film with so much potential and so little payoff.
The Big Bounce, directed by George Armitage (Grosse Pointe Blank), stars Owen Wilson as a down on his luck petty criminal who’s made his way to Hawaii for a fresh start. In the opening scene of the film (which is brilliantly scripted and funny, and gives false hope to the viewer) we see the beginning of the end of this fresh start, as he’s arrested for assaulting his boss in self-defense. While in custody he meets the district judge (Morgan Freeman) who befriends him and gives him another chance.
Soon after this, he meets Nancy (newcomer Sara Foster), a blonde bombshell with a taste for crime. She seduces him and offers him a chance to help her walk away from his evil boss’s home with $200,000. It’s a simple noir plot, but it lacks any of the style a story like this needs to work.
Instead, the film is played lightheartedly, and almost as a comedy, a decision I’m sure wasn’t the intention of the story’s original author, Elmore Leonard. Granted, movies based off Leonard’s (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown) work have always had some comic aspects, but have also delivered the goods in plot and suspense. Here, we get none of that. The story is told rather disjointedly by screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez (who was also responsible for the abysmal Gothika), and I got the feeling that a much longer movie would have been much more sufficient for the telling of Leonard’s story. Instead we get an 89-minute flick which jumps around from place to place with no real constant flow, becoming simply an interconnected set of scenes.
The acting in the film is for the most part, decent at best. Foster is given way too much of a load to handle, but does her job surprisingly well at times. With time, I could see her making a splash as a supporting actress in the realm of blockbusters, but never as much more than eye candy. The big names in the supporting cast (Gary Sinise, Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Bebe Neuwirth, and Vinnie Jones) each get very little screentime, with only Neuwirth and Jones getting a couple of good moments in. Luckily for The Big Bounce, it has its star, Owen Wilson.
Wilson almost single-handedly saves this film. He’s funny and charming, even when delivering some truly horrible dialogue. There are two scenes in the film I really enjoyed, and both were enjoyable simply because of his approach. I didn’t see him as a stand-alone Hollywood star before this film, but now I do, and hope to see a lot more headlining from him in the future.
In the end, The Big Bounce is a poor attempt at telling a good story, that’s only made watchable by a star that gives everything he’s got. I commend Mr. Wilson, and hope that the failure that is this film doesn’t doom Armitage, a very talented director. But their efforts are not enough, and The Big Bounce doesn’t live up to its title. The Big Crash might have been more appropriate.