banner image

:: Bandits

Firstly, it’s interesting to note that the film was originally meant to be an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel “Bandits”, to which Bruce Willis owns the film rights. The producers felt that it was too weak and brought in writer Harley Peyton to write a new script from scratch. Barry Levinson, whose previous work has been inconsistent, directs “Bandits”. Here, with an excellent lead cast, he manages to avoid many pitfalls but the film seems to just meander along, offering occasional excellent moments of banter and good comedy.

The two male stars are Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thonton. Despite some odd choices for roles in their career, their star power shines strongly. The two play fictional bank robbers The Sleepover Bandits, Terry (Thornton) and Joe (Willis). Terry is neurotic, constantly wondering if he has some illness to bring on his demise, while Joe is stronger in taking control of situations when required. As they break out of their Oregon State penitentiary, Joe is quick to decide that they need money and that means robbing a bank. Terry tags along. Someone that Joe can’t control is a floozy redhead named Kate (Cate Blanchett). In a chance meeting (she accidentally hits Terry’s car), Kate is willing to join Joe and Terry, since her husband is an uncaring man, and she learns that Joe has an interest in 80s pop culture. She just invites herself into their lives.

There isn’t any novelty to “Bandits”. The constant talking and two-hour running time can get on one’s nerves. The film is constructed in a way that the bank holdups are almost moot. They feel like diversions, even though the entire film is told in flashback from the inside of a bank lobby. It literally begins at the end, as Joe and Terry await their fate during a bungled robbery. We witness their antics in retrospect and we see the story establish their infamy.The weakest development proves to be the romantic triangle among Joe, Terry and Kate. Sex with both men seems to clear her head in becoming the film’s voice of reason, as opposed to the obsessive men. Despite this, the acting is very good. The three leads worked well together. And the music, containing 80s songs from Bonnie Tyler, Tanita Tikaram, Michael Murphy and U2’s recent hit “Beautiful Day” work in well on the theme.

Overall, it is sloppy how the film blends farce and violence, causing it to be awkward and ill fitting. While Barry Levinson is admirable in his thinking, the film is too long and lame, considering the potentially riveting story it could have been.

Screening on general release