Bandits (2001)

Bandits (2001)
  • Time: 123 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Barry Levinson
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton


Two convicts, one charismatic (Willis) and the other a hypochondriac (Thornton), break out of prison and immediately start a bank robbing spree, kidnapping bank managers, spending the night with their families, then going with the managers in the morning to rob the banks. Using a dim-witted stunt man as their getaway driver and lookout, the three successfully pull off several jobs (even gaining the attention of a television show about American criminals), and become known as “The Sleepover Bandits.” Things are going great until the bank managers begin to realize that the robbers are non-violent and therefore no threat to them or their employees, changing the game for the Bandits. To add to the complications, a bored & unhappy housewife (Blanchett) ends up in the hands of the criminals, and begins to have romantic feelings for both Willis and Thornton, causing a sticky love triangle.

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  • Sometimes there are movies that don’t give a real reason as to why they should exist. Most movies when released serve a purpose. Whether they are extremely well made or just cheap cash-ins, there’s usually an understandable reason. Whether it is ethical or not for making the movie is another question entirely. No matter if it’s just making money off the name or because the filmmakers actually have a vision, they both serve as valid reasons as to why they exist. Also in the past, several macho actors from the 1980s have all made a few blunders in their time. Most of these box office bombs were because of being cast in unorthodox roles or ones that just didn’t fit them. The genre with most of these examples belongs to the comedy films. As it turns out, Die Hard (1988) star Bruce Willis wasn’t done trying his hand out at forced comedic roles until the early 2000s. Oddly enough, this felt like one of those movies that by the end of the showing made the viewer question why they even bothered to watch it. It literally serves no purpose in any way.

    Directed by Barry Levinson, this romantic heist comedy is short on almost everything it’s supposed to deliver. Written by Harley Peyton, who has penned more TV episodes than anything else, the script is a story that barely engages its viewing audience. The plot involves two nationally recognized thieves known as the “Sleepover Bandits” who end up falling in love with an accidental hostage. Featured on a TV show, the two criminals at large are Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thorton). The female hostage that they both end up panting over is Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett), a rich housewife who loves to cook and can’t stand her own marriage. For two hours, this film drags its feet doing nothing particularly important related to the plot. Pacing is one of the film’s biggest problems. For such a cut and dry scenario, the length at which this story is stretched to is ridiculous. Especially when the main set of characters barely get the development they need to be likable.

    Aside from Wheeler not liking the way her husband kissed her, there is no other given motivation as to why she can’t stand the life she lives. On the other side, no explanation is given as to how Collins or Blake got into the profession of robbing banks. Nor is it elaborated on how they got so good at it. Or even if they really are that cold blooded since a few hostages question their actions. That actually would’ve been more captivating to focus on. There’s also another character named Harvey Pollard (Troy Garity) who has his own character arc but doesn’t add anything to the main plot. Pollard’s goal is to become a stuntman and that particular trait is only utilized once throughout the whole movie. Convenient much? The execution is highly cliche in its play out of the story. There are numerous things that can be seen way before the end credits role. One of the reasons why this is known is because the movie starts off at the finale and then rewinds to the beginning. It hardly creates the required tension to make the movie engaging.

    One more nail in the coffin is the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thorton. The two just don’t make the kind of buddy duo one would enjoy. Bruce Willis plays it soft spoken Mr. Mysterious with an ugly mullet and rarely makes a funny line. Billy Bob Thorton oppositely plays his role loud, jittery and obnoxious. Thorton says the name “Joe” almost after every sentence. Is it really that necessary to point out whom you’re talking to in every line of dialog? It’s apparent that Peyton was trying to define these characters so differently, but they’re so exaggerated that they aren’t as relatable as they could be. None of the lines these two main leads have to say are worthy of even a chuckle. Every bit of dialog, scenario and end result is just playing on screen to use time. It’s not even that it’s bad dialog, it’s just boring. Watching two oddball characters ham it up about who wants to be with the female hostage feels rehashed and over done so many times. Really, who cares?

    The only two redeeming elements to this movie are the music and camerawork. Credited as director of photography, Dante Spinotti has acceptable work here. Giving his talents to other movies like Heat (1995), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and Hercules (2014), Spinotti has proven that he can capture clear settings for different scenes. From what was displayed no shots shook around nor did they have any problems showing the audience of which certain things were stationed. For music, the underrated Christopher Young worked as the composer. Strangely enough having Young on board didn’t change much of the experience for two reasons. The first reason is that Young does have a some cues that are interesting to hear but they are very short lived. The second reason is that Young is known for composing music to horror films; how in the world did he get hired for this project? It nowhere fits his previous credits in his filmography. Besides, most of Young’s work gets run over by all the early 2000s mainstream music. Just great….not.

    The film on a visual aspect looks fine and the music is nice even though Christopher Young as composer is not using his skills wisely. Anything else is all questionable. The movie does not prove itself to have a reason for existence. The characters are boring, the premise is boring, and the comedy is boring. It’s all boring and overdone.

    Points Earned –> 3:10

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