Bandits Barry Levinson
Published Oct 01, 2001"Bandits" is a much better movie than one might expect. It's a clever and fun little film that doesn't try for anything grander than spinning a good yarn about some interesting characters, and thereby succeeds in being a satisfying entertainment. A romantic comedy wrapped up on a heist movie, "Bandits" somewhat resembles "Out of Sight," unfortunately without that film's impeccable style but fortunately also without its attempts at a moralistic ending. It tells the story of two complete opposites, the charming and confident Joe (Bruce Willis) and the neurotic but smart Terry (Billy Bob Thornton), who break out of prison together and begin to rob banks to fund their dream of owning a night club in Acapulco. Deeming conventional bank robbery too risky, Terry devises a plan which has them showing up at bank managers' houses at night and holding their family hostage ( in the kindest, gentlest way possible) until the next morning when they all go rob the bank together before it opens to the public. The "Sleepover Bandits" begin to incur minor celebrity with their exposure on an "America's Most Wanted"-style true crime show. A car-jacking gone wrong brings Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett), a woman on the verge of a breakdown due to her dissatisfying housewife existence, into the mix and a tricky love triangle quickly ensues with both men in love with Kate and she unable to choose between them.
Levinson's directing style, while not exactly groundbreaking or exceptionally stylish, works for telling this story, with its non-linear tale cut with gritty interview footage of the bandits narrating their own story after hijacking the crime show. Harley Peyton's ("Twin Peaks") script is quirky and funny, its characters well-drawn oddballs grounded in their own bizarre reality so as not to be over-the-top in their multiple eccentricities The acting of the three leads is really quite great. Bruce Willis sends himself up, playing the magnetic but dim prototypical man of action. Billy Bob Thornton also plays a character close to home, embodying Terry's countless phobias and psychosomatic illnesses with ease. Cate Blanchett completes the trio with her excellent portrayal of Kate's out of control yet fragile state that makes her decide to ditch her life and go on the road as an outlaw. The chemistry between the three leads is palpable, and it's this strange union of dysfunctional personalities that makes the movie as interesting as it is.