In The Big Bounce, the only man on Oahu who doesn’t think there’s something special about surfer girl Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster) is Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise), the corrupt real estate developer who keeps her for his mistress: “You’re a cute kid, Nancy. If I had to replace you it would probably take me most of the day.” That search may have been preferable to watching slacker petty thief Jack Ryan (Owen Wilson) take most of the film to romance her. Newcomer Foster cites Lauren Bacall as a precursor, but her ingénue fatale is more like a lost Olsen triplet.
Jack tries to go straight, working as a handyman at a beachside resort, but carefully placed Hawaiian sunsets and loose-stringed bikinis conspire to tempt him. Nancy has a plan to steal $200,000 from Ray, but first requires Jack to prove he’s a worthy partner in a series of grand-theft-auto and breaking-and-entering auditions. Their only obstacle is Ray’s henchman, Bob Jr., played by Charlie Sheen with a porn star mustache that rounds out the Magnum, P.I. mise-en-scène.
The best Elmore Leonard adaptations (Jackie Brown, Out of Sight) play behind the beat, and although The Big Bounce isn’t top-shelf Dutch, the film finds its own pace. Former model Foster can only contribute a range of “Blue Steel” pouts, but typically natural Wilson understands the meaning of the film’s tagline, “Who’s scamming who?” When Nancy complains that his low-rent room is depressing, Wilson gently objects: “That’s what I like about it.”