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Also recommended – Nov 2001

From Dec 2001
Film Review

4 Stars - RecommendedBANDITS

Film Review Hotline

Film of the Month: The Others
More November Recommendations

Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce WIllis

Official site (MGM)

STARS Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton,
Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity
DIRECTOR Barry Levinson
SCREENPLAY Harley Peyton
CERTIFICATE 12
DISTRIBUTOR 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME 2hr 03mins
OPENING DATE November 30

Not since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 32 years ago has the cinema given us two such engaging, affable and, in their own way, charismatic bank robbers. Like their Western forbears, this crooked duo have captured the imagination of the American public, wouldn’t hurt a fly and share the company – and affection – of a beautiful woman.

Bruce Willis plays Joe Blake, an impulsive, volatile, but basically well-mannered guy. His best friend within the high walls of the Oregon State Prison is Terry Collins (Thornton), a somewhat more meditative, level-headed crook with a veritable table of pathological symptoms.

Then, without warning, Joe spots an opportunity for escape and takes it, with Terry clinging on behind. Simple really. Joe walks out of a line of prisoners, boards a cement truck, throws it into gear, drives it through the penitentiary gates, into the outlying woods, through another gate, out of the woods, across some well-manicured lawns, through a kid’s prefabricated toy house and into a housing estate. Drawing on his irresistible blend of charm and politeness, Joe talks his way into a series of fresh vehicles (“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but we need your car”) and, just before nightfall, into the heart of a comfortable, suburban home.

It’s such disarming affability and chutzpah that makes these crooks such good company. Joe knows how to handle a gun, but he’d never use it – although he looks as if he would. Of course, Terry is another kettle of fish entirely. And he’s only too aware of the problem with robbing banks – the guards that shoot at you, the tellers who press those hidden alarms and the customers who always get in the way. So Joe and Terry come up with a brilliant plan – they follow the bank manager home, take him hostage and enforce his co-operation the following morning.

While the mechanics of the plot are oiled well, what makes Bandits so enjoyable is its attention to details and character. While Willis and Thornton produce a wry, dry chemistry, it is Blanchett who puts a match to the Bunsen burner. Arriving a third of the way in, she makes a show-stopping entrance, cooking up a storm (literally) while miming to the words of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero. Too often Blanchett has been typecast as the tragic heroine but, given the opportunity, she is incredibly funny. Here, she bounces off the two leads with an intuitive skill that brings out the humanity in both characters.

Indeed, Blanchett and Thornton are two of the most amazing actors working in the cinema today. To believe it, check out their work together in the 1999 comedy Pushing Tin and then see them in this. Actually, you should see this anyway; Bandits is enormous, unadulterated fun.

James Cameron-Wilson

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