Note: This was my review for the Marshall Independent TV Guide.
I wish I had known I was going to like this movie so much before I set out to review it. I’d have started on the novels first.
This was one of those delightful experiences where you try something more-or-less on a whim, and discover a new treat. Like a new restaurant, a new brand of beer, or a new author.
“One for the Money” is based on the first of 18 Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich, published in 1994. Stephanie is a bounty hunter, who stumbled into the profession out of necessity after losing her job as a lingerie salesperson, getting way behind on her rent, and having her car repossessed.
It stars Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, Jason O’Mara as her onetime romantic interest turned prey, and Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur in a small but very entertaining supporting role. Debbie has aged well and is a delight to see again sporting a Jersey accent – and attitude.
After the aforementioned financial misfortunes, Stephanie goes to work for her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman, going after FTAs – Failure to Appear. Her first case turns out to be a cop gone missing after being charged with murder in the death of a suspect.
Said cop Joe Morellli, and Stephanie have history. As in Joe was the man who took Stephanie’s virginity and never called her. Stephanie in return ran over Joe with her father’s car, breaking his leg in several places. Over the course of the film Joe saves Stephanie’s life on a few occasions. Stephanie returns the favor and proves Joe’s innocence. (No spoiler, you can see he’s innocent from the beginning.)
Their chemistry is to say the least, interesting.
OK, so why did I like this so much? Especially since I went in thinking, “Oh, another idiot movie which portrays a woman easily besting men in hand-to-hand combat.”
No such thing. Heigl’s Stephanie is a big girl, and does become proficient with a gun eventually, but is no superwoman. She’s more apt to use her street smarts than her muscles.
The villains are not romantic supervillains either. They are like real criminals, scary, brutal, scum. As Dean Koontz once remarked, you could put a hundred of them in a room together and you couldn’t get five minutes of decent conversation.
The neighborhoods are not the Hollywood Hills, but Trenton, New Jersey, like it says. Clothes are Jersey, not Armani, and accents are Jersey, but not overdone.
Heigl shows range some of us never knew she had from watching Roswell, where she was just kind of there, to Grey’s Anatomy where she played a whole different character. For this role she had to guts to go brunette and kind of dowdy, though there’s no disguising that Valkyrie figure.
There’s character development. You see Stephanie start out with her Jersey attitude and a lot of spunk. Under the tutelage of fellow bounty hunter and second romantic lead, Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) you see her start to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to survive, and prevail.
And did I mention the banter? Lots of banter, like we haven’t seen since Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in “Moonlighting.” The story is partly told with voiceover first-person narration by Stephanie, but there is no breaking of the fourth wall.
Evanovich’s bio said she spent the first few years of her writing career trying to write The Great American Novel before setting her sights a little lower and becoming first a romance novelist, then an action/adventure novelist. Likewise this is not “Gone with the Wind,” but if you have some time on your hands, try it, you might like it.
And you’ll really like Stephanie.