Bandits


Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by:Harley Peyton
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity
Released: March 21, 2002
Grade: B

Joe Blake (Willis) and Terry Collins (Thornton) are presented with an opportunity and so they decide to take it.  Stealing a construction cement mixer, they escape from prison and immediately begin where the left off by robbing the first bank they come to.  Joe has a plan to elope to Mexico and run his own hotel but he’ll need to rob a few more banks to set himself up financially.

Together, the two develop a simple idea to target low-security banks in small towns.  The night previous, they appear on the doorstep of the bank manager and take them and their family hostage.  The following morning, they take a casual stroll down to the bank where the manager’s keys can be used to open the vault and all can be taken before trading even commences.

The plan is effective but in a matter of weeks, the two become known around America as the “sleepover bandits” and they develop a gentlemanly reputation.  Their faces are plastered on TV screens, they make the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, and a $1,000,000 reward has been offered for their capture.  It’ll be hard to keep their anominity.

Following their initial robberies, Terry meets a fragile woman named Kate (Blanchett) who has just split from her husband.  She realises these two are the “sleepover bandits” and asks to be part of their team or else she will turn them over to the authorities.  The two hesitantly agree but find themselves warming to the idea when both fall for Kate - threatening to jeopardise their “business”.

Bandits is often unsatisfying in its failure to fulfil the audience’s desire.  The beginning is fragmented - a combination of the first robbery, the final robbery, a TV interview.  It then gets back of the rails but delays the appearance of Cate Blanchett until at least a half-hour into the film.  As the robberies become interesting, the film strays and focuses too heavily on the romance.  The finale then offers a small twist but is short and lacking common sense.

Despite these noticeable annoyances, the film is held together by two wonderful and one decent performance.  Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett would be the two most versatile actors in the business today.  They can take on any role, any persona.  Look at the last six months for example.  Thornton in The Man Who Wasn’t There and Monster’s Ball.  Blanchett in The Fellowship Of The Ring and The Shipping News.  Both found themselves on the outer come Oscar time perhaps because they had too many good performances for voters to choose between.  As the weakest of the trio, Bruce Willis lacks originality but I’ll admit this is one of his better roles of late.

Two hours is also a long ride for a comedy and sure enough, I glanced at my timepiece more often than I should.  Bandits is a subdued comedy with perhaps not enough “laugh out loud” moments.  Fun but not funny.