Bandits (2001), Cert 12A.

Director - Barry Levinson.

Writer - Harley Peyton.

Starring - Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton & Cate Blanchett.

 

Premise - Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are the 'Sleepover Bandits', bank robbers with a unique approach to their trade. When they both fall for Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett), a woman that they have kidnapped, things get complicated.

Utter dross, 2/10.

There you go, no need to read any further. If you want to know what Bandits is like, then the above line will answer all your questions. If on the other hand you wish to share the pain that I endured watching this film and want to know why it is utter dross, then, by all means, please read on.

The problems with Bandits are numerous, for a start none of the characters are interesting. Both of the 'Sleepover Bandits' are cut out caricatures of characters from any number of previous films. Bruce Willis' Joe is a loveable rogue with a mean streak and Thornton’s Terry is a whiny, hypochondriac with an inferiority complex. The film doesn't make any effort to develop these weary stereotypes over the films torturously long running time. I got the strong feeling that I have seen these exact same two characters paired in another film, it was so familiar and not in a good way.

Cate Blanchett's Kate is a housewife who is tired of the everyday routine of her boring marriage and runs away craving more excitement. When watching Blanchett in this film I was reminded heavily of a Bette Midler film from the 80's. The name escapes me, but like so much of this film Blanchett's character is disturbingly familiar.

Not only are the characters tired and uninteresting, but many off them are incredibly annoying. Billy Bob Thornton's character in particular. I'm sure all his whining, tics and paranoia was intended to make him endearing, but it just irritated the hell out of me. The getaway driver was stupid to the point of frustration; nobody can be that annoying, nobody.

The story didn't have an original or interesting bone in its body. The 'twist' was so obvious that they should have just had it in flashing letters on the screen; less people might guess it that way. The love triangle was tired and has been done a million times before. A million times better as well, the resolution leaves the viewer baffled. Is this to be some kind of sick 'ménage a trois' where Thornton and Willis share Blanchett?

The film makes a weak attempt to include some media satire, but (like much of the film) it just comes off tired and uninspired. More like an exercise in bandwagon jumping than any real attempt at commentary. I'm not sure what kind of film 'Bandits' is supposed to be. It's too lightweight to be a thriller, not anything close to being funny enough to be a comedy and it's not dark enough to be a black comedy. It just kind of flip flops between these genres, trying to fit in, but getting turned away at every attempt.

The three leads do well enough with the dreadful material that is laughingly referred to as the script. Thornton and Willis bicker like school girls in a playground and none of it comes of as convincing. Willis spouts of random pearls of wisdom from great philosophers, Thornton rattles of long lists of illnesses that he thinks he has and nobody cares. The film runs about 2 hours 10 minutes long, with some judicious cutting this could have easily been a 90 minute movie, the world would have thanked Barry Levinson for shortening their torture.

Levinson's direction is at time quite good (the prison escape and subsequent destruction of a neighbourhood shot from a helicopter spring to mind), but the tirade of negative aspects of the film leave him floundering. Bandits was almost a 'did not finish', but it was my feeling that I should give every film a chance to impress that kept me watching, rather than any interest in what happens in the rest of the film.

Aside from the occasional nice touch from Levinson in the director's chair, the only reason I have for recommending this film is that Cate Blanchett possibly looks the best she has ever done in a film. Avoid like the plague.

 

/10.

Poster Quote - It should be band.