Bandits (2001)

"Weak"

Bandits (2001) Review


If you start a movie by telling people how it's going to end, well, telling us how it gets there better be one hell of a good time. And to be sure, Bandits begins with its ending, but the story leading up to the dramatic finale is just about as lame as they come.

Doing time for unknown crimes, Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) are milling about the clink one day when our hunky inmate Joe engineers a daring escape, taking his milquetoast pal Terry along for the ride. Within a few nights on the lam, they've engineered a plan for a new kind of bank robbery -- kidnap the bank manager at his home, spend the night at his house, then waltz in with him first thing in the morning and abscond with all the money.

The plan works so well as Joe and Terry rob their way from Oregon to L.A. (en route to open a nightclub in Mexico, of course!) that they become infamous as "The Sleepover Bandits." Through happenstance (and of course it has to be through happenstance), the bandits end up with a bored, rich housewife along for the ride. Kate (Cate Blanchett) ends up stealing their hearts, and along with those go any semblance of watchability that Bandits might have had.

Bandits wants to be Fargo -- a kitchy, light-hearted, and wryly funny comedy set against the backdrop of a caper. Instead, Bandits is a messy debacle of awful jokes, unbelievable romance, and a ploddingly obvious storyline that feels even longer than its two-plus hours.

Bruce Willis can be fun, even in throwaway material like The Whole Nine Yards, but Bandits puts his balding head in trashy long hair and tries to convince us that he's some wonderstud that can charm ladies even when he's holding them at gunpoint. On the flipside, Thornton's one-note character (he's an obsessed hypochondriac that can actually delude himself into paralysis) is sold as someone with whom Kate falls in love simply because they both dislike black and white movies. But while details like logic are glossed over, increasingly irrelevant director Barry Levinson (Sphere, An Everlasting Piece, you get the picture...) opts to spend long, pregnant moments developing irrelevant, uninteresting storylines, the end result being one awfully boring movie.

In search of something positive to say, I'll acknowledge that at least Bandits has a fair number of giggle-worthy moments, a tense dinner as the kidnappers dine with a bank manager and his suburban family being the comedy highlight of the movie. Too bad that's 30 minutes into the picture -- and the film just heads south from there. The love triangle wherein the guys agree to share the girl (a plot stolen from Splendor -- lame source material, in my opinion) isn't believable, and the robbery scenes are barely suspenseful at all; in fact, the only real danger arises when the criminals act with complete stupidity: joyriding on the road or when the driver (the sleepy Troy Garity, a minor highlight in this sea of boredom) leaves the waiting getaway car to chase a hot chick. Uh huh.

It's amazing that seven producers were unable to figure out how to turn a moderately promising premise into something worth watching. (Well, not really.) The bottom line is that this is a Levinson vanity project, pure and simple, and there's nothing uglier than vanity.

Home on the beach.



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