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By MARK TURNER
If you like to read, especially modern mystery novels, then you've heard the name Janet Evanovitch. Evanovitch has made tons of money by writing the best-selling series of novels based on her character Stephanie Plum, a young New Jersey girl (completely unlike those seen on JERSEY SHORE) who, while seeking employment, becomes a bounty hunter. Now Plum has made her way to the big screen (and small screens with DVD) and done so in style.
Katherine Heigl stars as Stephanie, the hard-working New Jersey girl down on her luck with bills to pay and rent owed, looking to find any job available. Visiting her parents and grandmother (one of those kooky type families we all know and love), her mother suggests she talk to her cousin, a bail bondsman. She goes to her cousin to apply for a filing job only to find it's over with. But while there she is told about collecting bounties on customers that have failed to show. Given a few easy jobs, she thinks she can handle it.
One big job Stephanie thinks she can handle is Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara), an old flame of sorts from high school and now a policeman on the run for murder. Most think he's innocent but the law is the law and he's on the run. With the keen insight of knowing his old hangouts and how he acts, Stephanie goes after Morelli ... only to find him and then have him toss her keys into a dumpster. This job isn't as easy as she thought.
Help arrives with some training. This comes in the form of Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), a professional who knows all the ropes and friend of her cousin's who is willing to spend a little time training Stephanie. The training isn't in depth enough for her to take down public enemy number one, but it does get her enough that she can make her first collar and pick up some cash, learning as she goes.
As Stephanie pursues Morelli she discovers more about why he was arrested and what's actually going on. Morelli shot and killed a possible low life but claimed he was armed and that he was knocked unconscious afterward. Rather than wait in a cell for the outcome of his arrest, Morelli skipped bail and is trying to find the real murderer. Morelli's and Stephanie's paths continue to cross and she eventually helps him on the condition that he surrenders once they find the killer so she can collect the paycheck.
Along the way Stephanie meets a variety of characters. Lula (Sheri Shepherd) is a street walking prostitute who takes a liking to Stephanie and gives her information when she can. John Leguizamo is Jimmy Alpha, a MMA promoter with a top contender. That contender, Benito Ramirez (Gavin-Keith Umeh) is a vicious fighter with sociopath tendencies that have led him to hurt far too many on the street. Each of these characters and more continue to provide the fledgling bounty hunter with clues as to Morelli's innocence or guilt as well as the identity of the killer. Okay face it, his innocence because the chemistry between the two characters is one of the main points of the film as well as the series of books. For the series to continue he has to be innocent.
The fish out of water that learns how to swim concept is worked well with this film and Heigl does a great job. Her combination of real person attractiveness (as opposed to the Hollywood make over style) and portrayal of a person who finds their calling in a round about way makes for a character viewers will not only root for but want to see again. O'Mara has the swagger and sex appeal to make women swoon and want to see more of him as well. And Shepherd turns in a performance that will make you forget all about her time on THE VIEW.
The movie isn't one that will make most rush to the store to seek it out. I know I'll hold on to it to watch again, but can't be sure that most people will feel the same. Fans of the books will keep it around. And while the movie did decent box office when it was released, it didn't quite do enough that you'll be seeing a rush to bring the next book in the series to the screen which is unfortunate. With all the drek that is getting made, this could turn out to be a series worth keeping an eye on. Until the suits in Hollywood decide to make it happen, you'll have to be content with this offering.
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