With the release of the very watchable The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the gender reversal action mystery genre has officially arrived. Historically, it is the Detective or Cowboy (male, obviously) who are tasked to ride like hell through the night in hopes of saving their beloved Best Gal from the clutches of some villainous maniac. We've all seen that movie. But since it's 2012, why not just pull a gender reversal on the formula and call it the new David Fincher movie? Well, they did. And now, that formula lives on with One for the Money, in which Stephanie Plum, a down-on-her-luck former Macy's lingerie girl (Katherine Heigl) becomes an ass-kicking bounty hunter overnight. Her mission: to track down her high school sweetheart, a washboard-stomached cop (Jason O'Mara) accused of murder.
Where do I begin? The woefully miscast supporting players include her over-the-top family, its aging matriarch played to the hilt by Debbie Reynolds. The family members are all broadly-drawn sitcom characters with no real depth. Showing Stephanie in this world reveals the film's premise to be weak and poorly-conceived. This is supposed to be Stephanie's introduction and it's written like an episode of According to Jim. Unfortunately for the audience, Stephanie is reduced to a mere "occupation type". Even the other characters in the film, including her own family, define her by that job. "Stop it, Steph! You're just a shop girl from Macy's!" But no, ladies and gents, I assure you: she is so much more. (Sigh. I will do my best to not nitpick.)
As Stephanie Plum, Katherine Heigl devolves into a mixture of poorly-chosen (possibly accidental) facial ticks and behavioral habits, always seemingly on the edge of laughter (reminiscent of an early Jimmy Fallon on SNL). And note how in nearly every non-action scene in the film, Heigl is stuffing her face with food upon which she endlessly sprinkles salt. Charming, right? Brad Pitt nailed this bit with a lot more charm in Oceans 11. And this ain't Oceans 11. This ain't even Oceans 13. I was yearning for a fake-nose-sporting Matt Damon to show up and end the dullness.
You can have all the quirky mannerisms in the world but if the audience doesn't care about the protagonist, they won't care when the antagonist is trying to kill them. It's simple. When we first meet Stephanie, she inhabits a silicone-fake sitcom world and then gradually enters the rather embarrassingly portrayed World of Crime. The juxtaposition is intended to be jarring but in actuality, comes off more like a night club comic stumbling over a punch line. Better luck next time. Also: Heigl's choice to substitute a Brooklyn accent (in some scene, she even uses her natural accent) in place of the seemingly character-required Pennsylvania accent is an imprudent choice. The Penn State accent is so much more unique and specific. Water becomes wudder. Hoagie becomes hew-gie. See my point? (Oops. I'm nitpicking, aren't I?)
Despite all this, I do not solely blame Heigl for this misstep. Although I probably should -- Steph (oops, I mean Katherine) and her mother Nancy Heigl (who goes oddly unlisted on film's IMDb page) are two of the film's producers. But it is the screenplay (credited to Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius from the novel by Jane Evanovich) and subsequently the supporting cast who deserve the blame.
When was Heigl at her best? Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, a film in which Heigl was absolutely wonderful. But with what did Apatow wisely surround this former Maxim model? A fantastic cast of skillfully-drawn supporting characters, flanked by a funny and heart-felt script. The underused John Leguizamo and the under-dressed Sherri Sheppard (that lady from The View who thinks the earth is only 3000 years old) are a far cry from Seth Rogen or Leslie Mann. One for the Money isn't even in the same league.
Ya know those movies with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Hugh Grant, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Whitherspoon, or (wait for it...) Katherine Heigl? The ones where the guy and the gal are stood back to back on the poster, their wry grins cocked cheekily at the camera lens? Well, here's another one. (Yep. Totally nitpicking.)
Tony Hinds is a Canadian writer who studied film at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to ShowbizMonkeys.com, Tony has reviewed films for Step On Magazine and The Uniter. You can find Tony on Twitter.