Bandits
dir Barry Levinson
scr Harley Peyton
with Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity, Bobby Slayton, Brian F O'Byrne, Stacey Travis, Azura Skye, Richard Riehle, January Jones, Peggy Miley, William Converse-Roberts
release US 12.Oct.01; UK 30.Nov.01
MGM 01/US 2h02
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
three's a crime Nothing Levinson has ever done (Diner, Rain Man, erm Sphere) could prepare us for this, one of the best action comedies in memory. Joe and Terry (Willis and Thornton) are Oregon prison escapees who turn to bank robbing to make a bit of cash, then find they're rather good at it. Joe's fearless inventiveness combines perfectly with Terry's wary intelligence. Soon they're folk heroes, plotting a course down the West Coast with Joe's wannabe stunt-man cousin (Garity) along as getaway driver. Then they pick up a fourth gang member, the dejected Kate (Blanchett), who has a fierce resilience that catches both Joe and Terry off guard. But what are they going to do when she can't choose between them?

Told in flashback, intercut with a reality TV documentary (hosted by the deadpan Slayton), the story gallops along at a fast pace, like Butch & Sundance meets Bonnie & Clyde. Because we know it's headed for disaster. The central trio are excellent, playing their roles with an off-handed natural wit that keeps us laughing through virtually every scene. (Can Blanchett do anything wrong? I think not) And Garity is hilarious as the bonehead who can't keep his mind on anything. The level of comedy and action build steadily until the outrageous final sequence, which has us gasping and laughing at the same time--both using and lampooning Hollywood's obsession with pyrotechnics. Although the film touches lightly on issues of loyalty, trust and attraction, there's nothing much beneath the surface. It's just good fun, with a big payoff at the end that keeps us watching through the credits, which are hilarious. But for once, not the best part of the film.
themes, language, violence cert 12 26.Oct.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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