Small-time crook, Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson) is keeping a low profile working construction jobs in Hawaii, when beach babe Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster) catches his eye. A thrill-seeking kleptomaniac, turned on by crime, Nancy ropes Jack into a scheme to steal $200,000 from her lover, hotel developer Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise). Unable to resist her charms, Jack goes along, against the advice of sagely judge/small resort owner, Walter Crewes (Morgan Freeman), but slowly discovers he is the patsy in a far more elaborate scam.
Things gets off to a good start as Owen Wilson does the world a favour and swings his baseball bat into Vinnie Jones’ big, fat mouth. Wilson’s laidback, Midwestern charm seems a good fit for Leonard’s wry, ironic take on criminality, while Sara Foster makes an especially scintillating femme fatale. Sun-kissed and bikini clad, she upstages the lush, Hawaiian scenery, coming across like a surfer chick Lauren Bacall as she strings three, dumb lugs along (in addition to Jack and Ray, Nancy has Charlie Sheen’s clueless foreman on the boil) and batting suspicion away with her “little girl lost” demeanour. After stellar turns in this movie and D.E.B.S. (2004), it’s disheartening Foster’s career sunk into Bachelor Party 2 (2008). Yet despite this appealing duo, The Big Bounce never catches fire. Too lacking in danger to satisfy as a thriller, too oblique to tickle the funny bone.
The screenplay by Sebastian Gutierrez (who wrote and directed the impressive She Creature (2001) and scripted the remake of The Eye (2008)) translates Leonard’s quirky plot into mere aimlessness. Gary Sinise, Charlie Sheen and Vinnie Jones are totally superfluous (the latter even more than usual), while Morgan Freeman’s shadowy magistrate is vague until the late hour plot twist. The kooky courtship between Jack and Nancy is oddly endearing in its early stages, with their first date involving breaking and entering, theft and nude skinny-dipping. Even after the real scam is made clear there remains a lingering suggestion that they really do love each other. The closing shot completely deflates that, so we’re left with a great, big nothing.