Bandits
(2001)











Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 2 Minutes


Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A

"Bandits" is more than just a hell of a lot of fun. It's fun with a heart. It's fun with a soul. It's well-written, well-acted, original and unique. It's not just another dumbass action movie. There is action in it, and the action is exciting. But it's more than that. This film isn't about providing you with two hours of adrenaline. But you know what? I don't mind. I loved it, in fact. It respected my intelligence far more than any other action film I have seen this year. It's exciting, yes, and Bruce Willis does get to look cool and fire a gun and rob banks (I didn't realize how much I had missed Bruce doing things like this, God, it's so refreshing!) but it's also something even better. It has something that is sorely lacking from most films of this ilk.

Charm.

Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton (the guy who gets to go home to the stars of "Tomb Raider" every night) portray Joe and Terry. Joe and Terry are in prison and are best friends (one wonders how the hell these two hooked up, but they care for one another so it doesn't matter). Until one day, when Joe decides, on a whim, to break out and Terry comes along with him: mainly because there are too many things in prison that he is allergic to. Once on the outside, Joe immediately robs a bank and steals a car.

Once they cleverly elude the police, Terry comes up with a brilliant idea. What if they hit the bank managers' houses the night before and forced the managers to let them in before the bank began its business day? Before all the guards and customers arrive? Joe takes immediately to the notion and before long, that is just what they are doing...and with great success.

Until the day that an unfulfilled housewife and rabid Bonnie Tyler fan named Kate careens into their lives (played to perfection by Cate Blanchett). You can't really say that she was abducted, since she seems more to be abducting Terry than the other way around. Soon she is cozying up to both men, becoming an important part of the gang, and complicating everyone's lives in unique ways.

That's all I will tell you about the film's plot. This movie's plot is one of its chief pleasures. It doesn't have one hairpin turn after another like some movies. But there are twists and subtle little surprises. There are many things that you won't see coming, no matter how closely you are paying attention, and nearly all of these things will bring a wide smile to your face. The twists are not the reason for the film's existence, either. They are merely the icing on a delightful cake.

The performers all hit the right notes. Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis are both perfect as a cross between Butch and Sundance and Oscar and Felix. They're wonderful here. Thornton is a perfect ball of neuroses and Bruce, oh, boy, Bruce! Bruce is a fucking stud in this film, pure and simple! Every woman he meets seems to drip over him in this film, from the first frame to the last. Not only that, but he's the coolest in this that he has been in many a year. Those who love Willis will find a great deal to love here. He rules, ladies and gentlemen! He's simply great, charming and smooth and a joy to watch. So is Thornton, though his role is pretty much the antithesis of Willis's. Willis is the smooth operator. Thornton is the guy who thinks too much for his own good, yet pulls a great many inspired ideas out of his ass. And Blanchett is excellent as always as the woman who brightens the moments she meets these men and finds, in them, new reason to live. She is great. And together, the three of them are a remarkable team. I was continually reminded by these three of the relationship between Newman, Redford and Katherine Ross in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". These three may even equal the performances of those three.

The film has a laid back nature that I found refreshing. Director Barry Levinson knows the strengths of his story and his quirky and well-rounded characters. He lets the story and characters breathe, and the film is a better one for it. It's a great, quirky tale told just as it needs to be told. Okay, maybe not perfectly. I wished that the film had not began at the end of its tale (which is a gimmick that's getting utilized a great deal these days). The film, I believe, would have been better had it just progressed from beginning to end in the standard way. But that is a very minor gripe. Otherwise, it is great all across the board. It's a wonderful, sweet, cool, well-made film of the sort that we haven't really had since the glory days of Newman and Redford. All the actors are great, the direction is great, the writing is sharp and all the planets seemed to have aligned for this one.

Plus, you get to see Willis be a cool dude once again. That alone may be worth the price of admission.