Jolly Katherine Heigl, producer, has once again found something for jolly Katherine Heigl, actress, to appear in. The property is “One for the Money,” based on a story by popular detective story novelist Janet Evanovich.
Now detective story movies are about as rare as are westerns. I assume Hollywood believes the fans of these genres are older than the typical movie-goer. So mysteries rule TV but are rare on the big screen. One would think the readers of detective stories would be reveling in the release of this picture, but there has been some controversy about Heigl’s casting. Evanovich’s readers seem to think the former TV star goofy rather than charming.
Julie Anne Robinson, the director of the Miley Cyrus vehicle “The Last Song,” has Heigl playing Stephanie Plum a divorced New Jersey-ite, formerly the manager of the lingerie department of Macy’s in Newark. Needing a job, she visits a cousin who is a bail bondsman. He gives her a couple of bond skippers to pick up and introduces her to a mentor, professional bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata).
She can get the old nudist man from her own apartment building. But Ranger has her training for bigger targets—like Joseph Morelli (not Joe Morello, the recently deceased drummer of the Dave Brubeck Quartet). Actually Morelli is an old acquaintance of hers from years before. He took her virginity. And she ran over him with her car.
More recently he has been a policeman. But he shot a suspect who didn’t appear to be armed, so he has been charged with murder. Morelli (Jason O’Mara) went into hiding while he tried to find out what happened to the other guy’s gun. And so he is technically in violation of his half million dollar bond.
Stephanie has no trouble finding Morelli. But he won’t go with her to the police station. Besides, there’s a little sexual chemistry between them. And maybe a little between her and Ranger. And then there’s the balding appliance salesman her stereotypical mother is trying to set her up with. By the way, Steph’s slightly-wild granny is played by Debbie Reynolds.
Our heroine learns that Morelli was acting to protect his informant, a hooker who was in danger from a psycho mixed-martial-arts fighter. A man with a flat nose was on the scene of the shooting. And that man turns up at a fish seller’s shop across the street from the appliance store.
But before we get to the gentle unraveling of the mystery, Stephanie will steal Morelli’s car, which is later booby trapped. She will be handcuffed, naked, to the shower curtain rod in her own apartment. And she will befriend a couple of street walkers who ask for snacks in return for information. “We have a good cop, bad cop thing going,” one of them tells her. “Except we’re hookers.”
The story is light and amusing and is told quickly. It is never really surprising (which is apparently a plus for many mystery story readers). Fisher Stevens has a cameo part. New Jersey is shown to be what most of us imagine, all run-down commercial districts with blue movie houses and decrepit boxing gyms. Like almost all American series detectives these days, Stephanie is divorced, and she announces this at the top of the film.
“One for the Money” clips along, doing its business in just a little over an hour and a half. It can’t have been that expensive to produce, and it will entertain people, and will probably have a second life on broadcast TV (where movies like “Payback” are forever popular). So this was probably a pretty good project for Heigl. Not that you need to rush right out and see it.