The Big Bounce

on January 30, 2004 by Paul Clinton
This latest Elmore Leonard cool-crooks comedy delivers a few breezy laughs as a flash-and-dash adaptation of one of the author's earlier books. Screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez (of "Gothika" notoriety) shakes up the novel, moving its setting to the north shore of Oahu from a Michigan resort and jettisoning many of Leonard's famously hard-boiled, zinging dialogue.

With a running time clocking in at less than 90 minutes, the movie has a slimmed-down-in-the-editing-room feel; plots points often don't connect. And only bits of Leonard's first crime novel--he had been writing Westerns prior to "The Big Bounce's" 1969 publication--remain.

Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson), a rudderless surfer and petty thief, takes a job as a handyman to a judge (Morgan Freeman), which leads to him to Nancy (Sara Foster)--"a knockout in a slutty kind of way"--who evokes Bridget Fonda's Melanie in "Jackie Brown" as the beach-babe plaything of Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinese, whose role appears to have been slashed rather harshly). Nancy easily lures Jack into an escalation in his criminal acts.

When they come, complications don't seem to faze Jack. The laid-back action takes on a languid pace that at times becomes stultifying. Gutierrez and director George Armitage ("Grosse Pointe Blank") do snare a few laughs: In once scene, Jack answers a cell phone he's just nabbed from a fraternity house. "Hello? Did you steal my cell phone?" asks a female voice on the line. "Yes, I did."

Wilson fits the bill as the hangdog-cool thief. Freeman also shows up, against type, in what is clearly the casting coup of the film. The best that can be said of Foster is that she wears a two-piece bikini well. Starring Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman and Sara Foster. Directed by George Armitage. Written by Sebastian Gutierrez. Produced by Steve Bing. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and nudity, violence and language. Running time: 89 min

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