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Directed by Barry Levinson.
Written by Harley Peyton.
Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  10/17/01


I went over to the local AMC theaters near my new place in San Fran to find out two harsh truths:

  1. The matinee at this particular theater was $7, not $5.

  2. ”Bandits” is a pretty bad movie.

“Wait,” said my movie partner of the afternoon, Melissa Dodd.  “You laughed at certain parts of it.  Just make sure to tell people what they need to do in order to enjoy the film if they ever decide to go!”

So, I'll do that.  To enjoy “Bandits”, this is what you should do:  watch the first 45 minutes of the movie...right up until you meet Cate Blanchett's character (creatively named “Kate”).  Then, go call your mom, see how she is doing, grab something to eat, use the restroom and play some video games in the theater arcade.  Then, come back and watch the final 15 minutes.

If you don't do this, you will experience what I call the “Gun in the Mouth” syndrome.  That is when you get bored watching a movie, and you are SO bored that you start patting down your sides to see if you remembered to bring along a handgun.

“Bandits” starts off very well.  Bank robbers Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) break out of prison in Oregon and figure out a plan to make enough money to move to Mexico and open a nightclub.  Their plan is to kidnap bank managers the night before they hit each respective bank, then get to the bank early in the morning and use the managers' help to take all the money in each institution.  This earns them the nickname of “The Sleepover Bandits.”  And, up until the bank robbers meet Kate, watching them get into disguise and robbing banks is fun, fast-paced energy that works.

Then, you meet Kate, a scorned wife that leaves her husband in a fit over a dinner of quail and just drives until she happens to almost run over Terry in an intersection.  Blanchett (an Oscar nominee for her best role, as the star of “Elizabeth”) is a great actress and she is a presence onscreen, but her shockingly-similar-to-”Pearl Harbor” romance with both Terry AND Joe destroys this film.  I started patting down my sides at about the 60-minute mark (the film carries on for a too-long 130 minutes) when Joe and Kate started singing chick songs from the 80s in tandem.  During the second hour of the film, director Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”, for God's sake!!) almost totally forgets to even show us bank robberies any more, because he is so caught up in the film's romantic elements.  I would have liked this romance a lot more if the script had explained to me why Kate would sleep with a criminal within the first four hours of their meeting based only on the fact that he knows the words to her favorite sappy song.  Come on!

And, both Melissa and I saw the ending coming, even if it is kind of entertaining to watch, because the movie gives it away in the first ten minutes of the film.  Usually, I am the type that doesn't see anything coming, so that should be a sign that this film defines “predictable.”  Also, Melissa thought that Willis looked “pretty hot” in this movie...but all I could think was, how old is he now?  I had time to think about this during the movie, during that second hour when I almost put a gun in my mouth.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09