Two’s company; three’s a crowd

Steven Snyder

Bandits

Directed by Barry Levinson

(Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity)

Rated: PG13

Bandits’ story is told by two criminals who recount their journey on a program similar to America’s Most Wanted.

Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) are dubbed the “sleepover bandits” by the media and their victims not only recognize them as pseudo-celebrities, but know them by name. Their infamy is the product of the media and those who avidly follow these news magazine programs. One only has to say the name Simpson or Condit to remember the cubicle-dwellers who vicariously lived the exciting life by following the “news.”

True to form, Bandits is at its best when the audience joins these two on the road, getting a front row seat to their heists and becoming witness to their half-assed behavior.

Their “perfect” plan is creatively humorous. They are labeled the “sleepover bandits” because their strategy is to go to the bank manager’s home the night before, stay the night and commit the heist early the next day.

Thornton and Willis together are magic. Willis is a tough, brutal, meathead. Thornton is an anal, nervous, walking encyclopedia of symptoms. Together, they drive the hilarious first half of the movie.

Considering the significant success of their chemistry, director Barry Levinson and screenwriter Harley Peyton mistakenly choose to introduce the character of Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett) between the two. She meets these bandits and falls in love with both.

Admittedly, this offers the viewer an insight into the criminal’s personalities, making Joe and Terry more real. But what the makers of Bandits don’t understand is that these characters are interesting precisely for the reason that we can’t relate to them. It is hilarious to see these two criminals act politely, argue amongst themselves and overcome their idiocy. It is, well, tiresome to watch a superficial drama unfold between Joe, Terry and a woman awkwardly introduced into a well-oiled story.

As Wheeler gets more and more screen time and the romances collide, the entertaining comedy that Bandits was becomes an unsuccessful melodrama, drifting further and further from what originally made it work.

-Steven Snyder

 

Bandits opens today in theaters nationwide.