Review: “Bandits”

What in the world happened? After what starts out with a promising first 30-40 minutes, this new Barry Levinson film just slides into inanity – I can’t recall any film I’ve seen recently fall so far so fast. Its a true shame considering the strong start in which smooth talking Willis and the eternally nervous Thornton escape jail in a quite funny concrete mixer chase sequence.

At first the pair’s opposing personalities play well off each other, the film never takes itself too silly and the sequences grow increasingly fun when they finally dream up their robbery plan of staying over at a bank manager’s house the night before in order to get him and his family to open the vault early the next morning.

The scenes at the first manager’s house are a hoot, especially revolving around the panicing wife who ends up swapping recipes with Thornton. The sequences grow increasingly creative till they hit the high point – Cate Blanchett’s first scene which must be one of the best comedic moments of the year as she performs in her kitchen to “I Need a Hero” – the versatile actress goes all out in this scene and it works brilliantly as its something many of us (incl. me but not to that song) have done at one point or another.

After that sadly its a long slide down as the comedy is lost to an increasingly boring love triangle subplot. At first Thornton’s nervous streak was endearing, at this point it quickly becomes irritating. Blanchett’s unloved trophy wife routine is believably played, but the character is so frustratingly submissive and keen not to make decisions for herself it becomes increasingly hard to sympathise with whilst Willis’ character charm suddenly takes an arrogant streak.

The robberies are nowhere near as fun, the action is limited to one car chase side-swipe, and situations start becoming unbelievable. There’s scenes like Blanchett and Willis bonding over Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, a song Blanchett is shocked Willis knows the words too, one wonders why as its one of those songs that’s universally known and been redone numerous times (and prisons do have TVs showing music videos last I heard). More annoying is that the drop-off lasts right up till the end, leaving us with maybe 20 minutes of really good scenes in over two hours of footage. A big disappointment.