Bounty Hunters has generic B-movie actioner written all over it. A forgettable barely there plot, low-rent production values and performances that range from adequate to annoying, this film's got it all. The only reason it stands out is because it features the film debut of pro wrestling superstar Trish Stratus.
Stratus stars as Jules, a member of a trio of bounty hunters. She works with motormouth Chase (Boomer Phillips) and stoic leader Ridley (Frank J. Zupancic) on tracking down wayward criminals in exchange for sweet, sweet cash. When one such hunting expedition leaves them in custody of a mob informant named Mario (Enrico DiFede), they find themselves in quite the moral quandary. They could either hand over Mario to the authorities and pocket the $100,000 reward or accept an offer made by mobster Hal Lambino (Joe Rafla) and deliver Mario to him (and certain death) in exchange for a million bucks. What's a conscientious bounty hunter to do?
Let's face it. You're either reading this because you recognize Stratus and wonder how she fared in her debut or you saw an attractive leather-clad lady on the cover and thought that somebody finally made a sequel to Barb Wire. If you're in the former group, I'd say 'not too shabby'. If you're in the latter, I'd say 'shame on you'. Pam Anderson may have brought certain assets to the table in her wet n' wild take on the futuristic bounty hunter but she's no match for Stratus in one key area: pure physical chops. Stratus honed her skills in the wrestling ring and she puts them to good use in the film's fight sequences that, while not mind-blowing, are definitely above average.
Although the film features multiple tussles, its highlights are the one-on-one fights between Stratus and Andrea James Lui who plays one of Lambino's hired guns. The ladies first face off against each other in the back of a moving ambulance. Thanks to their cramped quarters, both fighters are forced to get creative with their moves and the sequence feels more energized as a result. The same energy carries over to their final showdown in an abandoned warehouse (where else?). Lui makes the stakes more personal and Stratus responds with increased brutality. The rest of the film's action beats don't register quite the same impact either because they feature fighters with mismatched skill levels or get by on stale choreography that we've all seen before.
If the movie were just a sizzle reel featuring nothing but fight sequences, it may have rated more favorably in my eyes. Unfortunately, whenever the film doesn't feature Stratus beating on someone, it just flatlines. Director Patrick McBrearty, working from a script by Reece Eveneshen, seems to be hard-pressed to do anything interesting with the characters at his disposal. I understand this isn't meant to be high art but does it have to unerringly pander to the lowest common denominator? For some reason, our badass bounty hunter has a second job as a bartender in a strip club. I'm sure she's just trying to provide for her child (conveniently unseen) but then what about the lingering shot that eyeballs her every curve as she changes into a bartender/naughty schoolgirl outfit? At least the climax doesn't turn her into a damsel in distress being held at gunpoint by an ineffectual villain just so she can be saved by a couple of men. No, wait. That's exactly what it does. Sigh.
Not helping matters is a woefully amateur cast of performers who don't add any spark to the paint-by-numbers plot. The only actor who even tries is Boomer Phillips and even his chatty vulgar schtick gets old after a while. Stratus may not have been hired for her acting abilities but she handles herself with just enough easy charm to ensure that this film can act as a launching pad for future opportunities. I only hope that those projects will allow her to showcase her talents without heaping on the chauvinism in such a boringly obvious fashion.