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This could've been just another "Bonnie and Clyde"-style crime caper, but
it's more than that. "Bandits" starts out as a slick action-comedy and
evolves into a sweet romantic comedy. When I found out Barry Levinson was
the director, I assumed the film would be at least halfway decent. Levinson
has a keen eye for character development, and that's one of the things that
interested me. Normally, a film like this would be consisted of
cut-and-dry, stereotypical characters, but we gradually fall in love these
three characters. After reading the rave reviews (Joel Siegel voted this as
one of the best films of the year), despite poor box office numbers, I had
high expectations for this film--higher than they were after watching the
trailer. For some reason, this just doesn't look like a film that would
receive 4-star reviews. Now that I have seen it, I can't regard it as a
4-star film, but it's good and entertaining and I wasn't disappointed.
Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton make a great team--they really have an impeccable chemistry. I hope to see them teamed up again in the future. They have the potential to be the next Martin and Lewis. Billy Bob especially steals the film, playing a neurotic Woody Allen-type. He is absolutely hilarious! Bruce flashes his trademark grin and speaks in his usual soft tone, but his role doesn't exactly require the talents of Pacino or DeNiro. Still, Bruce is entertaining and his constant banter with Billy Bob makes the experience even more entertaining. And last but not least, I will mention Cate Blanchett, who gives another incredible performance. I was lucky enough to rent 2 Cate Blanchett movies--this film and "The Gift"--by coincidence. I got to see her sweet, charming performance in "Bandits" as well as her powerful dramatic performance in "The Gift." Just watching those 2 films, gives me a great idea of her scope as an actress. It's sometimes hard to believe she's an Australian actress. How she pulls off such an impeccable American accent--I don't know. I think if I were to hear her speak in an Australian accent, I'd think she's feigning it. Well, Blanchett perfectly completes the trio of actors, and has a great chemistry with the 2 male leads. And it's great to see that Willis, Thornton and Blanchett all seem like they're having fun.
When first watching this movie, I found some of the bank robberies--though very slick and original--to be quite implausible. If the film wasn't as charming and likable, I'd probably have a difficult time suspending disbelief. But then I found out the story of the "Sleepover Bandits" was actually based on a real duo of bank robbers. Of course, this is nowhere close to a biopic and most of the story is obviously fiction, the concept of these two guys sleeping over the bank managers' houses and robbing their banks the next morning was based on truth. Why these managers didn't call the cops while the two guys weren't watching or why they didn't try to strangle the two guys in their sleep--I don't know. The truth really is stranger than fiction. But the bandits did have an interesting gimmick: they only robbed banks, since the money belonged to the government; they never snatched money from people's pockets. There's actually a scene in the movie in which they bust out of prison and rob a lady's car. Willis hands the lady her pocketbook and says, "Don't forget your pocketbook."
The film evolves into a romantic comedy during the second half. I guess that's why audiences were disappointed--they probably expected a sheer action-comedy/crime caper and not a romantic comedy. But I think the fact that the screenwriter and Levinson stretched this out into a romantic comedy made it all the more better. It added new dimensions, and helped us better fall in love with these amiable characters. It was fun watching the strong and macho Willis vie lanky pushover Thornton over the love of alluring Blanchett. It creates an interesting conflict, and spawns some very funny scenes.
The film concludes, picking up from where it left off in the beginning--which is the two bandits pulling off their last bank robbery. The twist ending is nifty and unpredictable, and left me satisfied. Though this is basically a feel-good comedy that kept me smiling, there's no cheap schmaltz or trashy sentiment. That's what happens when you're under the wing of a great director. This is not an excellent film, like some critics said--I don't think any movie that contains Blanchett's horrible rendition of "Walk on By" deserves to be regarded as "excellent" (Cate should DEFINITELY stick to acting!)--but it's good, solid entertainment. And I love the use of U2's "Beautiful Day"!
My score: 7 (out of 10)
BANDITS / (2001) ***1/2 (out of four)
Barry Levinson's clever romantic comedy Bandits makes stealing money look fun and simple. I can see it now: young, influential criminals holding up entire banks with magic markers. Certain things in this movie make such perfect sense, we wonder why nobody's thought of them before.
Even the casting makes perfect sense. Who better to play a handsome, spontaneous ladies man than Bruce Willis? And who could portray an intelligent, hypochondriac better than Billy Bob Thornton? Together, these two characters make the perfect man. Of course, it's only a matter of time before a woman becomes involved and finds herself split between the two.
But Bandits is anything but your average run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. Willis and Thornton play Joe Blake and Terry Collins, two criminals in a high security prison. As the movie opens, they escape from prison in such a way that probably makes the other prisoners hit themselves on the head and ask "Why didn't I think of that?"
Just as soon as they switch getaway cars, Joe and Terry rob a bank to finance their upcoming adventures. After hooking up with an old friend of Joe's, a wannabe stuntman played by Troy Garity, the criminals devise a foolproof plan to rob banks: they take the bank manager hostage the night before a heist, sleep over at his house, then go into the bank with him the next morning before business hours. No unexpected holdups. No complications. Just take the money and leave before the first customer arrives.
The Joe and Terry dream of escaping to a tropical location and opening a margarita bar. Their success as bank robbers eventually puts them at the top of the FBI's most wanted list. Things become even more complicated when Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett) runs into one of the crooks and wants to become a part of their lifestyle. When she falls in love with both men, the situation really starts to heat up.
Oscar-winner Barry Levinsion gives Bandits a humble sense of reality. He doesn't place Joe and Terry on a pedestal and treat them like superheroes; he actually opens the film revealing their presumed demise. Although in interviews he explains that he was initially unsure how to handle the material, his uncertainty does not show in the final production. He has found the perfect blend of romance, action, and comedy to satisfy all tastes and styles.
Bandits opens with a bookend revealing parts of the film's finale. This doesn't really work. Normally, this technique is used when a movie is more about a journey than what actually happens at the end. Although Bandits is indeed more about a journey, the movie's structure does not support such an opening. It doesn't provide us with enough information to work effectively, and, after a final twist at the very end, this technique seems pointless since it doesn't reveal the actual ending, anyway.
Nonetheless, Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett deliver fine performances, forming a charismatic, unlikely love triangle. Troy Garity, gleeful and eccentric, steals all of his scenes in memorable supporting role. Despite the various structural flaws, the cast alone is enough to redeem Bandits as an above average comic adventure. It's one of the year's most fun surprises.
If you like your comedy fully explained and in-your-face, this one is
not for you. If you appreciate deeper levels of subtlety and are
prepared to suspend hard-nosed reality for the duration, you will love
this one. Reminds me of Cohen Bros movies. If you are prepared to relax
into it and let the movie take you where IT goes, you are in for a good
ride. For those that want to predict a movie and try and show some
perceived level of intellectual superiority by telling the person next
to them what is about to happen just before it happens (yes - we know
they exist), I would hazard a guess that you will not enjoy this movie.
Having said that, I found the movie beautiful in the detail. This is not about grandiose plot, high speed chases and super cool cunning people. This is accidental and bumbling happenstance where random events are delightfully used. Truck, garage door etc. I carried with me the finer and more easily lost details of each character and I found they surprised me and delighted me with often times whimsical twists and subtle growth/support. I didn't find any huge character surprises or character twists, just good solid development, the kind where you can leave your opinions open to the end. Times like the late night rendezvous at the juke box joint and what happens when Bob tries to dance. Perfect. I walked out with a smile on my face, well amused and very much liking the attention to detail in character, shots, lighting, soundtrack etc. Not edge of the seat, sit back and relax.
BANDITS (2001) ***** Barry Levinson's 'Bandits' is an outlandish story of two prisoners who break out of restrictive quarters and take to the road for a change of pace. They rob banks to get their income, intertwine with a run-away housewife, and are, of course, chased by the law. From the very beginning the movie takes off with such exciting momentum one may wonder if it will keep its pace until the closing scene; yet it does. Terrific turns by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, and Troy Garrity make this the best film of its kind--where we root for the bad guys--since early cinema. Simply excellent.
The story of two unlikely bank robbers, a sexy accomplice, and a would-be movie stunt man who come together for one last big score. The story is complex enough to keep your attention right up until the surprise ending. Beyond that, though, this is an ensemble character study with four wonderful actors and it is a pleasure to watch them work. Bruce Willis is a tough guy with a believable sensitive side. Billy Bob Thornton is a hypochondriac with a penchant for making trivial observations at extremely critical times. Billy Bob enjoys doing different characters and this is a memorable one. Cate Blanchett is a beautiful woman running from a failed marriage who falls in love with both men. Troy Garity is a cowboy stunt man whose lapses in judgment are made forgivable by his love for his work. This is, for Garity, a very different character from role in "Barbershop". The movie is beautifully filmed in interesting places and there are even a few classy automobiles around. If you enjoy a good story, some action, and good actors working well together, I recommend that you rent this one.
Bandits is an interesting original film about two outlaws, Joe Blake
and Terry Collins (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) whom, after
escaping from prison decide to continue their bank robbing spree but
with a different tactic. They kidnap the bank manager,take him to work
the following morning and get him to open the vault without the
complications of tellers and customers. This works successfully until
they run into Kate (played to perfection by Cate Blanchett in an
overlooked role).Kate is an overworked stressed out housewife who
decides she needs some action in her dull life. She forms a romantic
relationship with Joe and starts to rob banks with them, a little
extreme for a mid- life crisis don't you think?. Later in the film she
falls for Terry. Cate becomes torn between the two and a rift is formed
between the thieves. This is the interesting dilemma explored in this
film as the two cannot afford to be torn apart as all they have in life
is each other.
This film is funnier than you would expect, it plays more as a comedy than a crime film. Willis nicely escapes his cop persona in the role of Smooth likable Joe Blake. Thornton is superbly funny as Collins, the neurotic paranoid partner. As aforementioned, Blanchett is perfect as the love interest.
The ending is enjoyable if not a little expected. The one big flaw in this film is that Thornton's character, though entertaining is clearly not the criminal type. Though the relationship between the two main characters is touching.
Bandits is a funny, enjoyable, original comedy that I recommend to everyone. Go out and see this film. There will hardly be a moment in it that you will not adore.
I must admit, when I sat down to watch this film, I didn't expect much; I had seen a few trailers, maybe a TV-spot or two, but that's it. The only thing I knew about it was that it was a crime-comedy, and that Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton portrayed the leads. I didn't think it would be so funny and thoroughly entertaining. The idea is somewhat original, though slightly derivative of movies like Bonnie and Clyde. The plot is very good; it details the various bank-robberies of two very different partners in crime. The pace is very good too, though I found parts of the last half hour of film somewhat dragging. The acting is great; Bruce Willis is great as the aggressive and determined robber, Billy Bob Thornton does a great job as the hypochondriac and very nervous robber, and Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as the slightly neurotic hostage who eventually falls in love with both robbers. The characters are well-written and credible. The comedy, crime and drama was well-integrated, and well-done. I didn't care too much for the romance angle, though, but, for what it's worth, it's not a bad one, and definitely not the worst I've seen. The actors have great on-screen chemistry, and they are well-casted. I liked the way the story was told; it left you thinking that you were merely following the events leading up to the end, but then, during the last few minutes, there is an excellent twist, which took me entirely by surprise, and made a great ending for a great film. Considering that the film is a PG-13 rated, two-hour long comedy which deals with crime, and has some drama integrated in it, it's really good. It's very funny, entertaining, and original. The humor is well-done, rarely falls flat, and mostly works great in the film. I liked that they mostly dodged stereotypes and cliches, instead of wallowing in them, like many other comedies nowadays do. I recommend it to fans of comedies, crime related films and dramas. To a lesser extent, it's also recommendable to fans of romance. Most general movie fans should also enjoy this, at least to some extent. 7/10
Bandits is a fun film high on average laughs and low on most other things, although I thought Cate Blanchett's performance was pretty good, and actually Billy Bob Thornton was hilarious. Bruce Willis does his usual cool act. The story isn't too deep, so don't watch this if you want something thats going to make you think, but it is definitely an amusing premise, and the odd clever moments serve well enough to raise extra smiles. The direction from Barry Levinson is interesting, but really it's just average stuff, no bounderies are pushed, nothing too daring is attempted. Overall there isn't really much to this, but who cares? It's just for fun. Kick back after a hard days work and just enjoy this entertaining flick.
Fun but no great shakes. Not the best of Barry Levinson's movies but
certainly not the worse either.
Billy Bob Thornton is hysterical as Bruce Willis' partner in crime. Their method of bank robbery is rather considerate, all things considered, and kind of touching. They visit the bank president the night before and get in with his cooperation. Why this happens without incident is anyone's guess, but I don't think its supposed to be deep or insightful or anything, and I don't mean that it insults the audience either.
Cate Blanchett is along for the ride, eventually. She doesn't belong with them, or anyone else, but she adds a lot of fun.
I'd rate Billy Bob's hypochondriac in this alongside Woody Allen's in "Hannah And Her Sisters". 7/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Writer Harley Peyton puts a spin on the script of Bandits, making his trio
of bank robbers compassionate, harmless and down right funny. You end up
rooting for them as the movie progresses. Director Barry Levinson is
brilliant as he makes his robbers become the heroes while the police are
deemed the bad guys.
Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are inmates who partner up in an escape from prison by stealing a cement truck. Once out, they decide to rob a bank by using a yellow highlighter as their sole weapon. In order to fulfill their much longed for dream of opening a nightclub in Mexico, they expertly plot a series of bank robberies. To secure them from ever being captured, the plan is to enter the home of the bank manager the night before the robbery, sleep over and escort that person to work the next morning. All is well until an unstable woman named Kate (Cate Blanchett) enters the game by hitting Terry with her car. After much quarreling, the duo decides to keep the woman on board, allowing her to join in the fiasco. Their title quickly becomes "The Sleepover Bandits" as a TV tabloid show, "Criminals at Large," follows their every move.
Willis and Thornton make a marvelous team. Opposite in every way possible, Joe is the sexy, strong criminal while Terry harbors the neurotic brain behind the operation. Thornton's choices of his character's facial ticks, his compulsive manner and nervousness are brilliant in its exploration. Willis is pretty much the same aggressive man going for the girl (Kate) and yes, he succeeds. Although, it's nice to see that macho Joe doesn't get to keep pretty Kate. He must share her after she falls for his other half, Terry. The movie takes a turn after Kate professes her love to both men. Now, the movie focuses less on the robberies and more on who gets to keep Kate. She says that she cannot decide between the two and that together, they make the perfect man.
Cate Blanchett is an extraordinary actress but is a bit too crazed in this movie, going overboard with her character as a dissatisfied housewife. At times, you feel compassion towards her character and at others, you just want her to shut up. Maybe this is what she intended but it doesn't make her character too lovable. Blanchett shows her vulnerable, free-spirited side while singing a hilariously disastrous rendition of "Walk On By." This scene follows along the lines of Cameron Diaz's impromptu version of "I Just Don't Know" from My Best Friend's Wedding.
Worth mentioning is the lesser-known actor, Troy Garity, as Joe's cousin Harvey, whom Joe talks into joining the gang. Harvey is an aspiring LA stuntman who ends up driving the getaway car for each heist. While perfectly fitting in between Thornton and Willis, Garity brings very amusing nimrod qualities to Harvey as we watch him fall off buildings and set himself ablaze.
While the movie is cute and seemingly funny, in its entirety, it is too long. Cuts to the tabloid show "Criminals at Large" are not necessary to further any plot. Neither are flashbacks from the ending scene as a narration for the entire movie. It's nice to use that technique of having the characters narrate the movie from the end but it doesn't help any here. Plus we've already seen it done many times and if removed, wouldn't affect the movie at all. It would just tighten it. Otherwise, this movie is a great escape for the country right now, a nice dose of comedy mixed in with a pinch of action and voilá, you have America smiling.
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