ninth symphony films - movie reviews

BANDITS (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  barry levinson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  123 minutes

RELEASED  -  12 october 2001


OFFICIAL SITE  -  bandits

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $80,000,000
bandits - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from bandits at

buy the dvd from bandits at

two bank robbers fall in love with the girl they've kidnapped.

the little girl who belches during the dinner scene is bruce willis' daughter, scout. and according to him, that belch was not enhanced.


picture from bandits

picture from bandits

picture from bandits


two out of four possible stars

The casting of a big time movie many times has nothing to do with the creative side of a film. And more to do with how the names will look like above the title. And from the movie trailer for Bandits, audiences would probably expect just that. Big name stars, run-of-the-mill movie. But you've got Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, two of the most talented actors in Hollywood, and Cate Blanchett, one of those rare "brains and beauty" specimens in Hollywood (or Australia). In prior films, all three of these actors have proved that they have the stuff to create great movies.

But what wasn't too tempting about this movie for me, or what almost kept me from buying a ticket, was the plot. It just didn't seem unique. Add to that it seemed as though all the funny parts had been included in the trailer already. Like when they showed New York getting flooded in the trailer to Deep Impact. Or when they showed that part in Evolution where that annoying guy says "it looks just like a big loogey!" Sometimes trailers just show too much. But in truth, the comedy in Bandits extended way beyond the scenes that were included in the trailer.

And these three actors really do have some chemistry together. Surprising, given that the casting seems a little bit odd. Though Blanchett and Thornton gave a pretty good performance together in Pushing Tin. And because of the performances there are multiple opportunities to laugh out loud during this picture. What is successful about this picture is that the comedy in this film never really seems to stop. It's like those a sitcoms where you have a joke and then a serious moment that's about five seconds long, which is ended with another joke.

It's probably impossible not to laugh when a cement truck drives through a couple of backyards and mows over a few swing sets. And the comedy really seems to come from the characters. They aren't jokes for the sake of jokes. And most of the funny scenes come out of Billy Bob's real neuroses. In an interview Oprah (he was promoting that Matt Damon horse opera at the time), he talked for about half the program about his obsessive compulsive tendencies. Weird stuff, like a strong aversion to antiques and a severe hypochondriacally inclined nature. Really, Billy Bob's OCD goes way beyond the Jack Nicholson style of jumping over cracks in the sidewalk.

And the film exploits it to the highest degree. In addition to this comedy concerning Billy Bob's habits, there's an especially funny scene where Blanchett dances and lip syncs to some dramatic 80's tune while making a meal. This scene really set up her character as one that would blend well with Billy Bob's. Rounding out the leading trio, is the always fantastic Bruce Willis, whose ability to create a slamming performance in whatever action or "thinker" movie he takes a role in was very evident in this picture. Though not as interesting as Billy Bob's, Willis was able to hold his own against two other actors really capable of creating a laugh.

But this film isn't entirely a walk in the park. One of its faults is with the story. During the film, the story also becomes a non-issue, because the stars of the film were almost able to eclipse the less than stellar story. The problem lies with something deeper than just dialogue. It's a clue that you're given early on in the film, which reveals the movie's ending. At least it did to me. Remember The Sixth Sense and how the filmmakers referred directly to the answer to the crux of that film several times? Well, most people never caught on until the end. But that was a different film which contained a story good enough to wow even the most ardent movie-goer.

But in Bandits you've got a major clue as to what you're going to see in the ending, thrown out at you right after Billy Bob and Bruce escape from jail. This scene is just so obvious, that right when I saw it, I just knew how the film was going to end. Now, I don't want to spoil the movie, so I'm not going to refer to this infraction directly. But I have a feeling that this bigger than life clue could have been more easily concealed. There had to have been a more clever way not to tip off the audience to the film's ending. This film resembles Forrest Gump in pacing, in that it begins about ten minutes from the ending and then spends the rest of the movie telling you how the characters got to that point.

But, sadly, it's too easy to know how it will end. But again, this failure is not something which completely condemns the film. There are too many positives for that. One of those positives is the soundtrack. It was littered with the usual top 40 songs, but also included a kind of subtle blue-grass violin thang that was present whenever Bono and the crew weren't belting out their tunes. The violining gave the film's tone a different and unique slant that has made me want to find the score to this film. So pay attention to the music when you see this movie and just forget what I said about the lazy script. Because with Willis, Thornton, and Blanchett in the lead roles, it doesn't really matter.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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