By Heather Wadowski | August 12, 2001

The old saying that less is more is proven true in Barry Levinson’s latest project, “Bandits.” The action-comedy could have easily been a delightful romp thanks to its A-list cast and well-written script, but poor editing causes “Bandits” to be just another hum-ho movie.
Very loosely based on the true story of two bank robbers in the ’70s, “Bandits” focuses on two escaped convicts (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) who quickly become the most successful bank robbers in history thanks to a simple plan no one ever thought of. Rather than walking into a bank armed and taking hostages, these two kidnap the bank’s owner the night before and rob the bank the next morning with his (or her) assistance. However, they soon discover that even the most perfect plan has its holes when a willing hostage (Cate Blanchett) comes between the two partners in crime.
For a movie that runs a tad over two hours in length, “Bandits” severely lacks in substance. A good half-hour of the film could have easily been removed without effecting the story, not to mention it would have helped the film move at a more tolerable pace. After all, the movie is an action-comedy– not many films in either genre develop slowly. Never-the-less, Levinson litters the film with excessive scenes that neither develops the plot nor entertains his audience. One scene in particular, which features Blanchett’s character singing drastically off key by a bonfire, is the perfect example of five minutes that could have ended up on the cutting room floor without upsetting audiences one bit. For not only is the ‘joke’ predictable (actually seeing actresses sing on key is more of a surprise these days than showcasing those who can’t hit a single note), the scene neither strengthens nor weakens the sub-plot between her and the two convicts, and therefore is just a complete waste of the audience’s time.
Another weakness in “Bandits” is with Willis’ and Blanchett’s characters. Both characters severely lack any depth or charm, and if it wasn’t for the fact that two well-respected actors were playing the parts one would wonder what the other characters saw in them that makes them so irresistible. Having two talented actors like Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchett stuck in dead-end roles is both sad and useless, and why MGM spent so much money to get them remains a mystery since these characters could have easily been played by anybody.
Although “Bandits” has its weaknesses, it also has its strengths that will keep viewers in their seats even during the slowest moments. One of these is the hilarious performance by Billy Bob Thornton. What Willis and Blanchett lack in charm Thornton makes up for with his unforgettable performance as the intelligent and highly neurotic convict, Terry Collins. Thornton plays the perfect geek, and his performance alone is worth seeing “Bandits” for.
Another one of “Bandits”‘ strengths is its soundtrack. Featuring hits from the ’60s through the ’90s, the songs not only fit the scenes they are in wonderfully, they also help speed the film up during its slow points. In fact, two of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the film are when Blanchett is singing along to Bonnie Taylor’s “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” neither of which would be possible if not for the film’s soundtrack.
The final element that makes “Bandits” semi-enjoyable is its ending. Unlike most films today, the trailers to “Bandits” don’t give away the whole story. Although viewers will think the movie’s opening sequence gives away the finale, screenwriter Harley Peyton gives the audience a couple surprise twists at the film’s end, making it impossible for viewers to really know what is going on until the ending credits role.
Despite all these strengths, however, nothing can prevent viewers from checking their watches at least once during the film. This is sad since “Bandits”‘ ending is a real treat for avid moviegoers– a finale that neither disappoints its audience nor is expected. For those who stick with “Bandits” through the good and the bad, its finale (and Billy Bob Thornton’s performance throughout the film) is definitely the icing on the cake.
Read our exclusive interview with “Bandit”‘s star Billy Bob Thornton in BILLY BOB THORNTON UNDREssED>>>

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