February 1, 2005 -- “The Big Bounce” is not a bad film, despite what you may have heard, but there is no doubt it should have been a lot better. This is a project with a talented director, George Armitage (“Grosse Pointe Blank”) and a talented cast led by Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) and a script based on a Leonard Elmore novel (“Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight,” “Jackie Brown”).
The story is funny, the dialogue witty, and the cast is loaded with easygoing charm, headed by Owen Wilson (“Meet the Fockers”), model Sara Foster, Charlie Sheen (“Scary Movie 3”), Vinnie Jones (“Snatch”), singer Willie Nelson (“Wag the Dog”), Gary Sinise (“Ransom”), Bebe Neuwirth (“The Faculty”) and veteran character actor Harry Dean Stanton (“The Pledge”). Owen Wilson plays Jack Ryan (sounds like a Tom Clancy character), a small time crook working at a Hawaiian construction site. He gets into a fight with his foreman, Lou Harris (Vinnie Jones) and ends up in jail.
He is immediately befriended by two unlikely characters. The first is a local Justice of the Peace, Walter Crewes (Freeman) who gives him a job at his small resort on the North Shore of Oahu. He is also befriended by Nancy Hayes (Foster), the girlfriend of the owner of the construction company he worked for, Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise). She tells Ryan of $200,000 in cash in a safe belonging to Ritchie. The two set about devising a scheme to get the money. Ryan is uneasy, though. He isn't sure he can trust Nancy. All of this seems a little too easy. He doesn't know how right he is.
With all of the talent in this project, this should have been a better film, but it is so laid back it is almost asleep. I watched this film on DVD and I understood what went wrong with this film when I saw the extras. Most of the stars said the Hawaii location made the film project seem more like a vacation than work. They were clearly distracted by the film's lovely location and the beautiful people who vacation there. The same thing often happens to football teams who go to Hawaii to play. The players have a wonderful time in Hawaii, but they are so distracted by the exotic location they play poorly in the football games. By the way the story in Elmore's book, upon which the film is based, was not set in Hawaii.
The extras on the DVD include a lot of great surfing footage taken on Oahu's North Shore, one of the great surfing spots in the world. The cinematography in the film is great by Jeffrey L. Kimball (“Windtalkers”). The musical score by George S. Clinton, and the soundtrack are very good too. The dialogue is crisp with that great Elmore Leonard style, like when crooked contractor Ray Ritchie says to his girlfriend, “You're a cute kid, Nancy. If I had to replace you it would probably take me most of the day.” I'm sure all the actors had a great time making this movie. The trouble is, the film just isn't as sharp as it should be. It just kind of shuffles along amiably with almost no edge to it. However, I found it mildly entertaining because I had low expectations. This film rates a C+.
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