Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, a born-and-bred Joisey girl who finds herself in financial straits after being fired from her job as manager of the lingerie department at Macy's. After being turned down for a variety of demeaning jobs, she blackmails her cousin Vinnie, a bail-bondsman, into letting her recover some of his bail-jumpers for him.
Taking in small-time quarries for the money, Plum has her sights set on the $50,000 bounty for the capture of her ex-boyfriend, vice cop and murder suspect Joe Morelli. As she gathers evidence to track Morelli, she suspects he may not actually be guilty.
This film includes examples of:
- Adaptation Amalgamation: Several plot elements introduced in Two for the Dough (such as Big Blue and Lula starting work at the Bond's Office) were incorporated into this film. References were also made to Ranger expanding into securities, which was introduced later in the books.
- Katherine Heigl and Janet Evanovich both suggested this would've been taken further had more movies been made - since the series was too large to realistically film each individual entry, they felt compositing various elements from the books into several films was the most feasible route.
- Adaptation Distillation:
- Benito Ramirez's attack on Lula is far more violent in the book. He leaves her lying naked and battered on Stephanie's fire escape and she spends the remainder of the novel in a coma. In the movie, she is beaten and thrown out of a truck, and is released from the hospital shortly thereafter.
- References to Vinny's alleged relations with a duck, which Stephanie used to blackmail him in the novel, were omitted. Stephanie blackmails Vinny in the film by mentioning his drunkenly making out with her at her own wedding, plus threatening to tell his wife about his encounters with a dominatrix.
- Backhanded Compliment: Stephanie seems to be a magnet for them.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Stephanie and Morelli.
- Big Eater:
Joe: [ransacking Stephanie's apartment while she's handcuffed to the shower curtain rail] I don't get it. How can a person eat like ya eat, and look like ya look?
- Stephanie manages to stay thin and toned despite eating nothing but bad carbs and fat. Lampshaded by Joe:
- Lula is also a big eater and, unlike Stephanie, has a body to reflect the fact.
- Bottomless Magazines: Stephanie fires a total of seven rounds from her five-shot revolver when she shoots the Big Bad at the end. She also fires far more than five shots without reloading when taking target practice at one point earlier in the film (although this could be due to editing).
- Bounty Hunter: A career path Stephanie takes up out of desperation, and isn't very good at. She gets better.
- The Casanova: Half the women in Jersey "sold [Morelli] a cannoli".
- Compressed Adaptation:
- Stephanie's apprehension of Clarence Sampson, a rather lengthy segment of the novel, was completely omitted. Handwaved (and subtly lampshaded) in the film by Stephanie claiming it would take too long to track him down. She opts to go after William Earling first instead.
- Morelli tossing Stephanie's keys into the dumpster occurs much later in the book; the film incorporates this event into their first onscreen encounter.
- Screenwriter Liz Brixius revealed that she used the abridged audiobook as her template, feeling it was a shortened version of the story that was approved by the author and therefore a useful guide.
- Damsel in Distress: Surprisingly inverted, as Stephanie manages to knock a guy to the ground and handcuff him after he shoots Ranger, she pepper sprays Benito Ramirez while he's fighting Joe, allowing him to knock out Benito, and when Big Bad Jimmy Alpha has Stephanie and Joe cornered and is planning to kill them, Stephanie knocks him down and he shoots her in the ass, but it barely slows her down and she manages to grab a gun from her purse and promptly shoots Jimmy in the chest five times in a row.
- Deadpan Snarker: Connie Rossoli, Vinnie's office manager.
- Fanservice: Stephanie in the shower, and later stripped down to her bra so Morelli can attach a wire.
- Hand-or-Object Underwear: Morelli barges in on Stephanie in the shower, causing her to cover herself in panic. He gives her a Modesty Towel and handcuffs her to the shower rod, while he searches her apartment for his car keys. When he can't find them, he comes back and takes away her towel, leaving her naked and handcuffed to her shower rod. She has to call Ranger to get her out, while she's barely covering herself with the curtain.
- Hopeless Suitor: Bernie Kuntz.
- Kissing Cousins: Stephanie blackmailed her cousin Vinnie into giving her the job because he tried to make out with her at her wedding.
- Naked People Are Funny: One of Stephanie's quarries is her elderly neighbor who refuses to wear clothes...ever.
- Scenery Censor:
- Stephanie gets naked and handcuffed to a shower and is just barely covered by the shower curtain.
- An old man who likes to expose himself is covered by conveniently placed objects, thank goodness.
- Shower of Awkward: When Morelli barges in on Stephanie in the shower. And later, when Ranger comes to unlock the handcuffs tethering her to the curtain rod.
- Supreme Chef: Morelli, who whips up an amazing omelet using only the leftovers in Stephanie's fridge.
- Took a Level in Badass: Stephanie isn't very impressive at the end of the movie, but is leaps and bounds ahead of where she started.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Stephanie, at least at first.