Miss Bala (2019)
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Ms. Rodriguez plays Gloria, a southern California resident whose particular set up of skills are utilized in her work as a makeup artist. Gloria drives across the border to Tijuana in support of her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) who is competing in the Miss Baja pageant. Their fun evening at the nightclub goes horribly wrong as evil-doers storm the club attempting to assassinate the director of the pageant. During the mayhem, Suzu gets kidnapped and Gloria proves for the first time (of many to come) that the film should have more accurately been titled "Miss Antibalas". No matter the size of the shootout - and there are many - there are no bullets for Miss Bullet (Bala being Spanish for bullet).
Of course that's not a spoiler because even in the trailer, it's quite obvious that this remake of director Geraldo Naranjo's 2011 Mexican movie sets out to become yet another action franchise. As a PG-13 film, it softens the edges from the original and seems to target younger viewers, possibly an attempt to empower teenage girls. It's a worthy mission despite the disappointing execution of the first feature film screenplay from Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer.
Gloria's attempts to rescue Suzu find her caught in a tug-of-war between Mexican crime lord Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova, "Ray Donovan") and the DEA task force led by Matt Lauria playing an incompetent agent. Given today's political climate, bad guy Lino is presented as half-American and half-Mexican to quell any cries of racial stereotyping. Also appearing are Aislinn Derbez (daughter of Mexican movie star Eugenio Derbez) as Isabel, another woman caught up in Lino's web; and Anthony Mackie in an all-too brief two scenes that seem to play into the previously mentioned franchise hopes.
Corruption, drug smuggling and human trafficking are rampant throughout. I have no personal knowledge of whether Tijuana is the lawless frontier presented here, but the focus is really on one woman's ability to find her backbone - her inner strength - in a never-ending stream of dangerous situations. Despite the material, Ms. Rodriguez manages to hold her own and flash star quality. She is likeable and tough. On the other hand, Ms. Hardwicke's choices beg for second-guessing - from the cheesy shootouts to the lame and too-obvious musical choices (especially at the film's conclusion). She has certainly proven herself capable of better as a filmmaker, and will undoubtedly do so again.
Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez) is a Hollywood makeup artist that goes to Tijuana, Mexico to help her friend prep for the Miss Baja, California pageant. While she and her friend are at a party the place is shot up by the Los Estrella gang. Trusting the wrong people Gloria found herself a captive of that gang and forced to do criminal acts she wanted no part in.
At the heart of this movie is a survivalist story--which I like. With survivalist stories necessity is the mother of invention and every action done by the one looking to survive can be crucial; no matter how trivial the action is. It's not always about a grand scheme, it's about surviving the next moment.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the Latino flavor. It's cool to see movies set in various countries with the cast being of different nationalities and ethnicities. This movie was intelligently done with some seriously tense scenes all with a PG-13 rating. There was never a feel that they tried to soften the movie at all. It had all the grit and intensity of an R rated movie minus the language and nudity.
Only my second time seeing Gina Rodriguez and she was amazing.
Miss Bala is an entertaining action thriller that shows Gina Rodriguez can take on an action heroic character trying to save her friend. The plot and story may not be something worth talking about or anything new to the whole drug cartel kidnapping girls and corrupt police in Mexico in a battle against each other. It does deliver some thrills and action that will be worthwhile on seeing Gina Rodriguez transition from a make up artists to a bada** woman.
The plot follows Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) a make up artists living in Los Angeles. She visits her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) in Tijuana, Mexico. They both go clubbing. Where a group of guys go on a shooting spree in there and kidnapping girls. And Suzu is one of them. Gloria is trying to seek help to find her and the corrupt police was no good. Until Gloria gets captured by the group of man led by Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Lino tries to get Gloria to doing some hostile tasks by having her bomb a safe house and delivering a weapon package to someone in San Diego. Until Gloria gets captured by the DEA and they want her to go undercover for them to the gang. All while, she is trying to find the whereabouts to her friend.
The film's plot was all over the place. It does have a development with Gloria as she changes throughout the course of the film. She learns to shoot a gun. And doing espionage tasks from the DEA.
There were a lot of intense action sequences. Especially, the shootout sequences were loud and intense. The direction did capture the chaotic feeling through Gloria's perspective. Gina Rodriguez did a great job playing the character. Ismael Cruz Cordova was good as Lino were he starts getting a soft side to Gloria. I did feel like Anthony Mackie's character was a little underused with his brief appearance.
I also felt like the film does have some uneven pacing issues in the second act of the film when Lino is taking Gloria hostage and intimidating her with showing up in the room.
Overall, Miss Bala is a pretty fair film. The plot and the pacing issues may be the film's weakest problem. The cast is good. The action and shootout sequences were intense and exciting. Seeing Gina Rodriguez taking on the reign's of an action heroic character was worth seeing.
Yup, I am announcing "Bala" as the first great film of 2019. After seeing it, I'll probably think twice about crossing the almighty Border. Come to think of it, I might just avoid hitting any restroom at a swanky nightclub as well (you'll know what I mean after you watch "Bala's" buildup-free, first act).
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, harboring a scorched look, and containing visceral gunfights with minimal bloodshed (hence the borderline, PG-13 rating), Miss Bala is a trafficking movie and a slight case of Stockholm syndrome all rolled into one. "Bala's" director (Catherine Hardwicke of Twilight fame) creates a flick so dangerous, so well plotted, so willful, and so vulnerably unsafe, you won't be able to catch your breath. Kudos also goes out to the calculated editing by Terilyn A. Shropshire and the performance of Gina Rodriguez which contains seething screen presence. If Miss Bala does well at the box office, the perfectly cast Rodriguez might wind up being a bona fide star (heck, she's got my vote).
So yeah, Miss Bala's loathsome premise, against your will latitude, and abundance of bad cop corruption seems a little far-fetched. And yes, Anthony Mackie playing yet another hard-nosed authority figure feels a little tiresome and typecast (does Runner Runner, Triple 9, and Love the Coopers ring a bell?). Still, "Bala" has enough twists and turns and ratcheted tension for a dozen films (you won't believe what government job the Rodriguez character takes at the pic's conclusion).
Bottom line: Miss Bala with its Mule-like elevation and its untidy crossfire, is truly one of the reasons I like to hit the good old Cineplex. I sometimes want to feel my stomach in my throat, roller coaster style! Rating: 3 and a half stars.
The only real fault I can give it is the overall lack of scale. You don't really get the feeling of Lino & Co. being a major cartel gang, more like 2-bit players trying to make a name for themselves by going against the police chief. Compounded to that is the brevity of the DEA agents. There are only a couple of gunfights, which are fun, but don't have much weight to them. Then there is the heroine herself, who the trailers portray as struggling to play both sides in order to survive, but in the reality she really doesn't do much to live up to the title, and the twists are predictable. And Anthony Mackie could've been written out entirely.
All that considered, I was glued to the screen. Highly recommended.
The end was so ludicrous, a shoe-in to set up future sequels. Not going to happen. Best of luck with that.
The idiot plot was also so strong in this film. If the drug dealers just told her to get her friend and leave, it would probably have saved everyone a whole lot of trouble. In fact, a quick text, "meet me outside now, we have to go" and that would have been the movie right there.
However, her main purpose is only to find her friend who was kidnapped by the cartel. The movie has got a lot of plot errors and pacing issues, but it delivers some exciting action scenes. Gina is the only one who goes through character development in the movie, the rest of them were presented more like robots.