Bandidas (2006)

Bandidas (2006)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
  • Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
  • Cast: Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn


In 1848, a New York bank wants to put a railroad across Mexico, so it buys up small banks around Santa Rita, Durango, and evicts farmers on the proposed rail line who owe money. The bank’s henchman is the murderous Jackson. He runs afoul of two women, María, the tough but uneducated daughter of a farmer, and Sara, the European-educated daughter of the owner of one of these banks. To feed the now landless people and to seek revenge, María and Sara become bank robbers, veritable Robin Hoods. But Jackson and his hired guns are after them. What are the women’s options?

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  • Through the 90s and early 2000s, several foreign celebrities made it big in Hollywood. These people weren’t just actors; some were also directors, writers and producers. Those three particular attributes can be given to Frenchman Luc Besson. Known for his surprise hits like directing Léon: The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and writing The Transporter (2002) series and Taken (2008), Besson has rewarded many of his viewers with enjoyable movie viewings. This goes for either American or French made films. The same could be said for actresses Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Both have worked on numerous projects that received positive acclaim like Blow (2001) and Desperado (1995) respectively, for the material covered. This also goes for American or Spanish cinema. Now if you take those three people and put them together, you get this movie, which is quite average. It’s rather baffling when considered because these people have made better, but this production is no low mark either.

    Here, Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz play two strangers from two opposite worlds that happen to cross paths and have circumstances that force them to become closer. Penélope Cruz plays Maria, a struggling farm girl who lives with her father in New Mexico. Salma Hayek plays Sara, a wealthy daughter of the don who controls the land Maria lives on. As Sara’s father works with the western migrating Americans, both ladies’ become forced under the rule of Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam). It is at this point, they decide to fight and take back what is rightfully theirs. Their method of attack – robbing all the banks within the city limits. The training is done by Bill Buck (Sam Shepard) a professional bank robber. Taking a side step over, audiences are also introduced to Quentin (Steve Zahn), a newly appointed scientist who has developed the ways of solving crimes via CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. His role is to find out who is behind the bank robbing.

    The script was penned by Luc Besson and his reoccurring writing buddy Robert Mark Kamen (The Fifth Element (1997), The Transporter (2002) & Taken (2008)). I guess not every writing duo has the greatest idea and it’s not to say this couldn’t have worked. The concept might’ve, but so much of this just feels unoriginal. Aside from having two female leads pair up, every other element was seen before this and not that long ago either. The story of having some “evil American” wanting to take over Mexico has been seen in both The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005). Even the finale feels like a mix of both. Oh and they both have comedy relief horses. Although Zorro was a fictional character, he did symbolize something. Here the idea itself sounds good, because it empowers females, but it serves no real purpose at times. Sometimes it feels like it was just a bunch of fanboys writing their personal fantasies. It just feels that immature. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have comedy, but its tone is unfocused.

    This brings us to our next problem; direction. Credited to this movie as their first theatrical film was Norwegian filmmakers Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. As their first outing, it seems as though this duo can’t figure out what genre this film needs to be. Originally it starts out like a western adventure, then moves to comedy and then to spy genre. It’s all over the place to the point where some viewers may not be able to relate. The last issue here is Dwight Yoakam as the main antagonist. Yoakam underplays his role by sounding and looking like he sleepwalked through almost every scene. Not a great choice. That’s as frustrating as it gets though because there are still some positives to enjoy. Thankfully, Hayek and Cruz are able to salvage some of the script with their banter. There are occasional funny moments specifically where they both challenge each other to who can give the better kiss to Quentin. Words probably cannot describe how envious some actors may be over Steve Zahn.

    The action is another energetic spectacle to the movie. More specifically, because this takes place during the old west, viewers get a chance to see some gun slinging and other types of western situations. Lastly, the post production crew is also just another set of the Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen group. The cinematography was managed by Thierry Arbogast who has worked on Léon: The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and even the dreaded Catwoman (2004) movie. The shots used throughout the movie are clear and bright enough for viewers to watch and enjoy. The music composed by Eric Serra was decent too. Serra’s ability to adjust the tone of his music to the proper scene is noteworthy even with its unfocused direction. For this, the score has a combination of Spanish themes, hillbilly-like instruments, strong guitar, percussion and even tracks that sound like Christopher Lennertz stepped in for a brief cue. It’s that versatile.

    The film score, cinematography, action set pieces and main leads all have the right appeal but the script heavily borrows ideas and plot devices from both Zorro films before it. There are also moments where it just feels like it was written because it would appeal to guys more. Lastly, the villain is underplayed to the degree of uninteresting.

    Points Earned –> 5:10

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