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USA 2001
Directed by
Barry Levinson
124 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


There are some movies that are bad because they fail in their ambitions, then there are movies that are bad precisely because they achieve what they set out to do. In the case of Bandits the aim evidently was to produce a hip caper comedy. Barry Levinson gives us that but packaged in such an obviously manufactured way that it fails in all but the most formal of senses.

From the get-go involving the escape of career criminals, Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton), in a cement truck, Bandits establishes its characters and the bantering buddy movie format which constitutes its mainstay.  Somewhere along the line, neglected trophy wife Kate (Cate Blanchett) gets involved and the story turns into Jules and Jim, American style.  Although mildly diverting, none of it is particularly impressive and some of it, like Willis’s wig and Blanchett miming the 1984 Bonnie Tyler hit "Holding Out for a Hero" is particularly gruesome. Perhaps this was intentional but there is an anachronistic quality to the film that makes it indeed feel like something out of the 1980s. a decade in which it might have looked clever, a bigger brother to a film such as Midnight Run. In 2001 it does not, the largely irrelevant device of a reality TV show “Criminals At Large” only serving to drag out the running time with misplaced self-congratulatory exposition.

There are some amusing moments, largely thanks to Thornton's diffident hypochondriac with a taste for gallows humour (although the bulk of the credit for that goes to scriptwriter Harley Peyton) but for the rest, the film remains a stock-standard Hollywood production driven by star casting and not a whole lot more.




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