“Bandits” steals from others, gets held up in mediocrity

· Oct 14, 2001 Tweet

Whether they are played out or simply lacking in humorous qualities, there is something so inherently unamusing these days about robbers and thieves that naming a film “Bandits” borders on financially suicidal.

Ignoring that, Bruce Willis — who seems to have morphed into something resembling a talented actor post-Demi — and Billy Bob Thornton — already starting to lose the post-marriage hype that has kept his butt afloat — manage to amuse viewers for a good hour or so.

But even the new, flaming-red version of Cate Blanchett cannot keep this doomed comedy from faltering through almost an hour of film that simply should not have been made. Too bad there are so few people willing to pay $8 for an interesting premise and half a movie, or “Bandits” might have had a chance.

The truth of it all is that “Bandits” plays out as if half a dozen cliché comedy scripts were force-fed through a meat grinder, and out came this choppy, processed, Spam-like substance — you know it’s food, but why doesn’t it taste like anything in particular?

There are hints of “Bonnie and Clyde” mixed with a little “Home Alone” (the wet bandits cleverly substituted with the sleepover bandits), a touch of “Robin Hood” here and there, and there is surely a full movie’s worth of buddy-cop schtick — enough to fill at least two “Lethal Weapon” sequels. Throw in a little bit of “Threesome,” and you’ve got “Bandits.”

Following suit is a cast of characters so familiar we can almost predict their every move. Billy Bob Thornton’s (“A Simple Plan”) Woody Allen is a little off — Kenneth Branagh did him better and with more confidence in “Celebrity.” If you want a glimpse at what Billy Bob was going for (the neurotic hypochondriac forced into a life of crime), catch “Take the Money and Run.”

Bruce Willis’ (“Unbreakable”) character is equally familiar, but it took a little longer to pinpoint this one: He’s playing Bruce Willis.

Joining the tandem is a revitalized Cate Blanchett (“The Gift”), flaunting herself like she’s the new, green M&M — oh so hot and tantalizing, but you know it’s just a shell she has manufactured for the part. After seeing Blanchett dance, spazz, whip and flail to Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding on for a Hero,” it’s apparent that she is poised to become the new Julia Roberts ? plus talent.

In a jailbreak consisting of events so unbelievably ridiculous that they actually might be plausible simply because they wouldn’t be expected, neurotic Terry (Thornton) and tough guy Joe (Willis) are introduced as buddy bandits on the run from the law in a hijacked hatchback. Using the only tool available, the two hold up a bank with a highlighter and head for the high road.

But like all bandits, these are good guys who want to go clean, if only they had a ton of money — enough to start their own Mexican resort. That’s bandit rationale for ya.

In a scam so brilliant, yet so elementary that we take for granted that it absolutely, positively would not work outside of this fantasy world of film, Joe and Terry devise a scheme that involves kidnapping bank managers and waltzing into their banks with keys and codes in hand the very next morning.

Somehow — and that “somehow” is very important, because there really doesn’t appear to be any rational explanation for it — Kate (Blancett) ends up along for the ride as part-time lover to both outlaws.

The story unfolds as told through a post-mortem “Behind the Music” for outlaws, and the last five minutes actually makes strides towards salvaging the preceding half hour of boredom. Still, “Bandits” fails to make the cut for the forth-coming Oscar season and will quickly be discarded as another irrelevant pre-Oscar flick.


GRADE: B/C

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This article was published Oct 14, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 14, 2001 at 12:00 am

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