Bounty Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
This is your fault. Everything from here on out is your fault. – Litwack
Written and directed by Kevin Kangas
2009, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Tom Proctor as Carl "Grunt" Henderson
Neil Conway as Ernie Litwak
John Rutland as Ing
Demetrius Parker as Webb
When Kevin Kangas asked if I was interested in reviewing his newest movie, Bounty, I immediately said no. Not only am I in this movie (albeit briefly), I have become friends with Kangas since the release of Fear of Clowns 2. Bias obviously comes into question. I told him as much, and I asked if I could have a copy of the movie anyway.
"No," was his reply.
"I'll review it."
There you have it kids, the full disclosure is out there, right up front. I'm friends with the filmmaker and I'm in the movie. Let's see how this goes.
I have been a fan of Kangas' movies since his first: Hunting Humans — a smartly written, ultra low-budget serial killer movie that was "Dexter" before "Dexter" was "Dexter". Next came Fear of Clowns and Fear of Clowns 2, straight ahead slashers addressing many horror fans' coulrophobia — a fear of, well, you get it.
I enjoyed all three, and reviewed them highly. Humans had the best story of his films (and still does), Clowns 2 is the fastest moving and, now, Bounty is his best directed in that unlike Kangas' other movies, there is a sense of "what the fuck is going on?" throughout the movie. It's that feeling that also makes it the most different of his previous offerings.
Bounty follows bail enforcement agent Carl "Grunt" Henderson (Tom Proctor – Fear of Clowns 2) and his team of bail bondsmen Ing (John Rutland), Webb (Demetrius Parker), and Scott (Jan David Soutar) on their efforts to bust the bad guys to make society a safer place. But when the boys bust into an apartment looking for genius rocket scientist Ernie Litwak (Neil Conway) only to find a young woman, Nancy, tied to a chair in a bathtub, shit gets weird fast. When Litwak calls Grunt and demands to know if he untied Nancy, Grunt is confused and worried, especially since his son, Kelly (Chris O'Brocki) was bitten by the girl. Litwak insinuates his former prisoner is not just any girl, and her biting someone is Not Good.
To add to The Mystery of the Girl in the Bathtub, when Webb stakes out Litwak's apartment in case he shows up, he notices that he's not the only one watching for the scientist. It seems that Litwak's intended hostage and a friend (Leanna Chamish (rock!) – Stakes) have been lurking about waiting for him to come home, too. When Grunt finally catches up with Litwak, things get hairy when Nancy (Mary Werntz) shows up with a gun and takes some shots in an effort to kill her abductor. Things go completely downhill for Grunt, his team, Litwak and quite possibly the rest of the world from there.
Shot as a pseudo-documentary, Bounty has a "Dog the Bounty Hunter" meets "Cops" with a visit from Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe. Of course Grunt is nowhere near as annoying as Dog (he doesn't have heart-to-heart conversations with his detainees, thank God), but the comparison cannot be avoided. Smartly, Kangas acknowledges the similarity to both "Dog" and Blair Witch in the movie, as a couple of characters drop remarks about each. This faux documentary shooting style really works for the film, as you only know what those filming Grunt and company know, which isn't much. And the story is fed to you in doses, keeping you in suspense. Unfortunately, even though Bounty was in production last year, the explosive popularity of the recently released Paranormal Activity may hurt this film, as it may wrongly be accused of being a copycat. Having seen both, this is far from true as they are two totally different movies.
The acting in Bounty really shines, as it's solid across the board. It's obviously important to have good acting in a "regular" movie, but in a faux documentary it's even more so. Actors have to take it up a level and act like they aren't acting. A wooden actor is going to stand out much more in a pseudo documentary than a traditional movie, and a poor performance will quickly rip you out of the film. Fortunately, everyone knows their role, and each came to play. Tom Proctor certainly has the biggest load, and he does an admirable job carrying it. Grunt's world is turned upside down, and he is forced to make some tough decisions involving his family and friends. Grunt has his world collapse in front of a documentary crew, and Proctor makes you feel as uncomfortable as his character, elevating the movie in turn. It's quite evident that the role was written with him in mind.
One thing that hurts Bounty the most is a montage editing choice. Without going much deeper into the plot (as this is a film that should be watched with little knowledge of what it's really about), the entire point of "documentary" is to warn people of a huge impending danger. If that's the case, why would the person putting out this information take the time to edit in a music video montage of Grunt driving around town, pointing out the sites? In the realm of the documentary, it makes no sense. Obviously the scene is there to fill time, but it's contrary to the point of what the film is going for. There are a few other minor scenes that are questionable as well, but this one stands out the most due to its nature.
After Bounty's theatrical premiere at the Charles Theater back in mid-September, Kangas told me the movie was one of those types that get better upon repeat viewings. Usually when a filmmaker tells me that, I take it with a grain of salt. Of course they want you to watch it again. However, in this case I agree with him. After you know what happens, a repeat viewing shows how much you really missed the first time around, and the film is better on a second (or third) viewing.
Be warned, even with Grunt taking down criminals, Bounty has a slow start, and this may put off people who go in expecting non-stop action from beginning to end. Instead, it's a slow-burn leading up to a frantic third act that's well worth the wait. If you get the opportunity, check it out, give it a chance to develop and enjoy a well-written, well-acted movie with one hell of a brutal payoff.