Bandits (2001)

Directed by Barry Levinson
(PG-13 - for some sexual content, language and violence)
Lagtime: 122 min

I looked forward to seeing this movie. I really did. I saw the mixed reviews, but I thought with big names like Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bruce Willis playing the leads, some part of this movie would be worth watching. I was right, but not in way I expected.

The movie started with Joe Blake (Willis) and Terry Collins (Thornton), cornered by the police in a bank which they were in the process of robbing. They spend the first five minutes of the movie bickering. By the end of that scene I realized I was in for a bad time, because at that point I didn't care what had brought them to that deadly crisis, or whether they lived through it. Still, I hoped maybe the ensuing scenes might give me some reason to change my mind. Wrong. They broke out of jail using a hijacked cement truck, I still didn't care. They charmed a woman out of her car, I yawned. They robbed the town bank using a magic marker... bored now. By 15 minutes in, I decided I'd just wait for Cate to show up, but I didn't know how long I'd have to wait. So, I started disecting the movie for it's primary faults to pass the time.

First, Thorthon was the wrong actor to play Terry. Terry was supposed to be a very high-strung, cultured, hypochondriac. Do any of those words make you think of Billy Bob? I didn't think so. It was like watching a Bloodhound pretend to be a Yorkshire Terrier: no matter what he did he just just couldn't convince me he was really neurotic, only slightly agitated. Second, the script was weak. When your characters are talking to each other, but seem to be saying things just so the audience knows what's going on, then you might as well have them turn and talk to the audience, at least then they can speak to the audience in character and not sound unintentionally pedantic. Third, when the movie passed 35 minutes and Cate still hadn't shown up, I realized the movie was also way too long for it's subject matter. Quirky characters work fine as long as you keep them moving along at a decent pace. If you let them flag, they stop being quirky and become ponderous.

Finally, they introduced Cate's character, named Kate oddly enough, via a music video of her cooking a gourmet meal for her husband. Next, they showed what an unappreciative prick he was, and the next thing I knew Kate had gone driving and crying, where she literally ran into Terry. Not great, but still engaging. However, personnally, I think Cate Blanchett could read a law book verbatim and still make it engaging. Still, at last, I found something worth watching. Unfortunately, she only has about 30 minutes of screen time and it's all shuffled throughout the middle and end of one of the slowest, least interesting movies I've ever seen. Now, that's pure evil. There were other ideas in the movie, such as a kind of polyamory and also the celebrity of criminals, but they've been done better elsewhere.

As the credits rolled all I could think to myself, "Bandits robbed me of Two hours of my life which I can never get back!"


This is neither the worst nor the best movie I've ever seen. It is, however, the most effective pro-polyamory film I've seen. What the trailers and the billboards don't tell you is that the car chases and gunfights were only put in to distract the studio heads from the love triangle that's at the heart of the story. The two male leads are archetypes: the manly man and the sensitive guy--imagine the two halves of Captain Kirk from "The Enemy Within." They're not subtle about this--at one point Cate Blanchett's character screams out, "if I could put you together, you'd be the perfect man!" And at the end of the movie, she does just that; the three of them have a happy relationship in Acapulco.

What struck me about this film was the unselfconsciousness with which it approach its "alternative lifestyle." Simply by being about polyamory without announcing "My characaters are violating society's regimented rules!" it went way beyond any one of a hundred second-rate indie flicks by people who think that they're making a statement.

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