Judge Ryan Keefer doesn't really have anything to say about Bandidas, other than it's 90 minutes of no real fulfillment. Married couples can make their own joke there...
Being bad has never been so good.
Bandidas features longtime friends Penelope Cruz (Volver, Vanilla Sky) and Salma Hayek (Dogma, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) who finally managed to find a project that they both liked and wanted to do. So does Bandidas help redefine the female leads in Western films, or is this another version of Bad Girls?
Facts of the Case
Written by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson (The Transporter) and directed by freshmen auteurs Joachim Renning and Espen Sandberg, Bandidas follows Maria Alvarez (Cruz), the adventurous daughter of a poor Mexican landowner, and Sara Sandoval (Hayek), the daughter of a Mexican aristocrat who has recently returned from Europe. Sandoval's father was poisoned following a real estate agreement with a banker from New York named Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam, Panic Room), and Tyler has bought the Alvarez property by force, killing Maria's father in the process, in order to have a railroad constructed. Sara and Maria bristle against each other, largely because of their backgrounds, but are united by Tyler's greediness, and decide to rob banks as part of a plan to buy Tyler out. Simple, right?
Bandidas is one of those films that is hard not to like, not because it's compelling or anything, it's fun to watch for the same guilty reasons that others watch films like Charlie's Angels. It's harmless popcorn fun that finds pals Hayek and Cruz shooting guns, blowing things up and just generally having a good time in one of the hotter non-sapphic girl-girl friendships that two famous actresses can have.
The story itself sucks, both in intent and in practice, however I am very surprised at some of the casting choices that the filmmakers managed to luck themselves into. Sam Shepard (Don't Come Knocking) is a clever choice for the role as the girls' trainer, as a bit of an "Apollo Creed boxing manager" equivalent of sorts. And Steve Zahn (Sahara) is the nerdy guy that both girls fight for, kind of like Big Bad Mama II without Angie Dickinson. Zahn's character is engaged to a very likable woman, so any defection to his new Latina friends would be a little bit out of place. And as the villain in the film, Yoakam is well, Yoakam. He's playing a shadow of other movie villains, except he still looks a little too neat and doesn't sport an apparent mean edge as in past films.
Sadly though, it's the story that's recycled from other "girl Westerns" and something you can see coming from a mile away. In fact, the only thing missing is a montage. Things are telegraphed too often, I almost felt like I was watching pro wrestling again on television. It's fortunate though that the main attraction, which are Hayek and Cruz, have unadulterated fun throughout, and it takes the sting out of what could have been a painful ride, and instead makes it lighthearted and fun.
The extras are pretty flimsy on this release, but because it's theatrical release had been delayed and abused so much, there's nothing much to gather from the supplements here. The trailer is here, and a four-minute look at the film featuring oodles of face time with Hayek and Cruz. Hayek and Cruz join in for a commentary, but it doesn't shed too much light on the production of the film. There's a lot of silence in between any comments, and there's some joking around in Spanish that you may hear also. It's a very topical, very friendly commentary, proven all the more friendly by the lingerie wearing and kissing sounds during the commentary. Wait, that didn't happen, that was just in my head…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For reviewing purposes, the court received a copy-protected for its deliberation, as the second side of the disc was missing, which missed the full screen version of the film. Scores are based as is and will be revised pending review of final product.
Bandidas is the first guilty pleasure film of 2007 that I can say I enjoyed watching. Never mind how derivative and unoriginal it might have been, the performances are fun, as is the rest of the film. Good lord, I wouldn't suggest buying this, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun thing to watch once it comes on cable.
The cast and crew (with the exception of Besson and his writing partner) are not guilty; the court will live with this in their conscience for awhile. Besson needs to get back to basics and work some more on quality control, which the court will revisit down the road.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz
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