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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.09%
Worth A Look34.04%
Average: 28.72%
Pretty Bad: 10.64%
Total Crap: 8.51%

8 reviews, 46 user ratings

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Bandits (2001)
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by Andrew Howe

"Forget the story, love the leads"
3 stars

There are many roads to box office success, but if you’re determined to take the route of least resistance this is how you do it: sign up several high profile actors, commission a script which trades in light, inoffensive comedy, and hire yourself a director who can be trusted to walk the straight and narrow. It worked for Pretty Woman, but the surprise is that Bandits is nowhere near as insubstantial as you might expect.

Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are gentlemanly criminals who hatch a low-risk plan to divest the local lending institutions of their cash reserves. After a string of successes they hook up with Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett), a hostage who views armed robbery as a bracing alternative to life as a bored suburban housewife. In short order she’s on the payroll, and before you can say “love triangle” both Joe and Terry have fallen for her charms. The remaining running time chronicles the disintegration of their well-laid plans, long-standing friendship and basic common sense, working its way to an implausible but satisfying conclusion.

What sets the film apart from the aforementioned Gere/Roberts vehicle is that, while the major players are indeed high profile, none of them are known to appeal to a younger crowd. Thornton’s brilliance has been confined to adult dramas, Willis left his action-film fan base behind long ago, and The Gift is Blanchett’s sole mainstream outing to date. As a result the film is skewed towards an adult demographic, and this proves to be the difference between entertainment and ennui.

When I announced to anyone who cared that I was checking out the new Bruce Willis film, the reaction was laced with the usual disdain. I don’t know what the man has to do to convince the cinemagoing public that he’s worth the price of a ticket – The Sixth Sense, Twelve Monkeys and Unbreakable laid any doubts about his acting ability to rest, but many punters still view those performances as aberrations (admittedly, signing up for dreck like The Whole Nine Yards doesn’t do him any favours).

I’m not about to put him on my personal A-list just yet, but he’s transformed himself into an eminently watchable actor who is equally at home with comedy and drama. Here he serves up a little of both, and his chemistry with Billy Bob is as enjoyable as it is unexpected. Thornton’s portrayal of a socially retarded hypochondriac is the film’s greatest asset – Primary Colors proved that he doesn’t take himself as seriously as Sling Blade led us to believe, and his obvious enthusiasm for his role is infectious.

I’ve never felt the need to jump on the Blanchett bandwagon, since her detached performances leave me feeling like I’ve spent a couple of hours in the freezer. Her performance here, however, is a revelation – she’s practically bursting at the seams with energy and vitality, and we see more of her engaging smile in her first five minutes onscreen than in all of her previous films put together. In the last six months two widely admired actresses have finally convinced me of their talents (the other being Nicole Kidman in The Others), and I would suggest that a few more livewire roles would do Blanchett’s disposition the world of good.

Harley Peyton’s script is by no means a comic masterpiece, but it’s a pleasant little romp which occasionally finds the space for something bordering on a bittersweet examination of adult relationships. Moreover, the absence of juvenile pratfalls and base humour automatically raises the film above several supposed comedies released in the last few months, and its appeal is enhanced by a diverse soundtrack that perfectly complements the onscreen action.

There’s a couple of ill-advised scripting decisions – playing games with the narrative’s chronology means that the conclusion is telegraphed loud and clear at an early stage, and a sequence where Blanchett capers around her kitchen is downright embarrassing – and the film does, on the whole, come across as somewhat sanitised and unadventurous. However, three enjoyable performances are enough to place it on the map, and the journey is sufficiently diverting that nobody will walk away entirely dissatisfied.

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originally posted: 11/21/01 17:48:35
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User Comments

6/20/07 Muted Orbz This wasn't acting, that's really Billy Bob. Ugh. 1 stars
6/04/07 Wendy Do you smell burning feathers? 4 stars
3/25/07 mb Good story ... well done. 5 stars
2/10/07 MP Bartley "Beavers and ducks!" 4 stars
8/17/05 Agent Sands One of my top 10 favorites. Elmore Leonard meets Woody Allen. 5 stars
8/08/05 R.W. Welch Shows some zip in the early going but slowly runs out of steam. Billy B has some good lines 3 stars
3/07/05 Charlie Being filmed in Oregon with a good cast, I have to give it 4 *. 4 stars
11/15/04 Joopy loop This is a 3.5 star movie from me, but still worth a look 3 stars
11/15/04 Ray I really like it!!! 5 stars
10/18/04 will rogers my favourite ivan campo tune: 1 stars
5/06/04 J.Peckerfoot harmless nad funny.great s.track and billy bob rocks! 5 stars
5/01/04 zach witham beavers and ducks- best line ever 5 stars
6/24/03 adrian lane kate what a gal 4 stars
4/08/03 Shadaan Felfeli i liked the film and loved the cast....Blanchet is my idea of a woman 4 stars
3/31/03 Paul Coleman Way below average. What was going on in the filmmakers minds? 2 stars
3/22/03 Allen How can you people like this pile of puke?!! 2 stars
2/02/03 Charlie Freschl I enjoyed it a lot 5 stars
11/03/02 Kari Wald BEAVERS AND DUCKS -best line ever 5 stars
9/18/02 Danielle Ophelia Very amusing, REAL comedy. The three leads rocked my socks. 4 stars
5/19/02 Chowie billy bob thornton is so fine.. 5 stars
4/30/02 katie hilarious.. odd comedy. GREAT! 5 stars
4/23/02 Monday Morning Bruce Willis...someday this guy's gonna make it big. 4 stars
4/19/02 Weedle Billy Bob continues to amaze 4 stars
3/22/02 antje quite like it 4 stars
1/23/02 Robert Cate is as perfect as always, therefore, it's a movie worth seeing 4 stars
1/22/02 Some Guy excellent movie! The movies ending was great. What a twist. 5 stars
12/14/01 Michael A funny movie that is just a litte too long. 4 stars
12/10/01 Matthew Bartley Could be more exciting but very funny nonetheless.Thornton was excellent 4 stars
11/22/01 Richard Connehey C ate was almost not horrible and outlandishly boring...almost 1 stars
11/22/01 j man really good movie 5 stars
11/22/01 steve goldenbaum Billy bob should stick to playing retards. A movie for Budgie brained commies. 1 stars
11/22/01 Barbara Cagle Going to see it again. Bought the soundtrack- it is awesome! Will buy the video too! 5 stars
10/31/01 ustabawillisfan Worst Willis movie I have seen. Trite, predictable and waste of time 1 stars
10/30/01 titsboobyala I shit on this film and your mom 1 stars
10/29/01 Jimmy James fun? i guess so, i barely smiled, cate rocks ass 3 stars
10/24/01 Barbara Cagle Loved it! Good escape film. Bruce Willis still melts my butter! Billy Bob/Cate are GREAT! 5 stars
10/23/01 spaceworm Cate. Yes indeed. And the guys are okay. 4 stars
10/19/01 Jestyr Way to predictable, it had brief moments on non-sucking. 2 stars
10/18/01 cindy Great movie...Billy Bob stole the show!!! 5 stars
10/17/01 Suzz easily the biggest waste of time, energy and money this year 1 stars
10/16/01 thanatos rarely do i see such interesting characters, and their interaction was hilarious. 5 stars
10/15/01 Dave Knave It had it's moments, but ultimately predictable and forgettable. 4 stars
10/15/01 poetchuck Wonderful movie with interesting twists 5 stars
10/13/01 KCobain Great, just what we need. Glorification of bank robbers. 1 stars
6/05/01 Ben Donnelly great movie, it was fantastic 5 stars
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