Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Barry Levison

Cast: Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton, Troy Garity

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content, language and violence)

Running Time: 2:03

Release Date: 10/12/01

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Review by Mark Dujsik

All bank robber movies have to deal with the fact that there is a film out there called Bonnie and Clyde, and when a movie reminds you over and over about the infamous duo, it doesn’t help matters. In its opening minutes, Bandits sets up darker, possibly tragic, occurrences, but the payoff ends up offering nothing. There’s even a mention of Bonnie and Clyde during the opening minutes, and for a short time, we can see a slight parallel emerge. But the chance of this being even a lesser such tale is destroyed. The biggest and most damaging difference between the two films is that Bonnie and Clyde made its legendary subjects heroes, and Bandits calls its subjects heroes and ends up making a joke of them.

As far as the plot goes, it follows the genre closely. Joe and Terry (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) escape from prison in a cement mixer and, after stealing a less conspicuous vehicle, rob a bank with a magic marker. After finding refuge in a house for the night, Joe tells Terry he wants to open a resort in Mexico, and Terry comes up with a plan to efficiently rob banks. The night before the robbery, they take the manager hostage and go with him/her in the morning when the bank opens. Hence, they are dubbed "The Sleepover Bandits". The system works, but during one of their two week hiatuses between robberies, Terry car-jacks the wrong woman, a frustrated housewife named Kate (Cate Blanchett). Kate has apparently snapped after years of being neglected by her husband, and in these two neurotic and emotional unbalanced thieves, she finds escape. She also presents them with what is constantly referred to as their downfall.

The structure of the movie is interesting. It takes the main thrust of the story and intertwines it with their final robbery and an interview done with the two shortly beforehand. For the most part, the movie portrays a quirky series of events, and then the Blanchett character enters and makes all the other things seem inconsequential. There’s an intriguing relationship presented by her presence, as it seems that Joe is everything Kate wants and Terry is everything she is. It’s handled carefully, and in the hands of Blanchett, Kate seems as plausible a character as one of this type could be. When she ends up telling them that together they make the perfect man, we may not see it for ourselves, but we can see that she believes it—which is all that matters.

The bank robberies start off entertaining and clever, but they grow more and more implausible as the movie progresses. One even has the manager enjoying the experience, and its climax depends on the actions of a cop more dull-witted than can be believed. The final robbery is a device of convenience, attempting to satisfy everyone but failing to deliver a sound resolution. Eventually even the relationship between Joe, Terry, and Kate becomes a series of pratfalls—mocking everything that came before it. There’s a late-night restaurant scene that might have been amusing if it did not embarrass the characters that have to participate in it.

It obviously isn’t fair to compare Bonnie and Clyde and Bandits. Both parties end up losing something. Joe and Terry lack the mystique that bank robbers in movies need to be memorable. I assume the interview that is conducted with them is meant to show that they have mystique to the audience within the movie, but if they cannot generate such mystique with the those watching their full story, it means nothing.

Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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