Plot: What’s it about?
Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) is a no nonsense, take charge kind of person, while Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) is a worrisome, paranoid hypochondriac. As opposite as the two might seem, they have some things in common, such as both are in prison at the time and soon, both will be out of prison, but not because of parole or good behavior. Joe is sick of being held inside the walls and on a whim, puts a quick escape plan into motion and by some stroke of luck, it works and Terry joins him, as they begin a run from the law. After Joe masterminds a bank holdup with a ball-point pen, the two have some cash to fuel their trek, though it will run out soon. As such, the two men organize a plan to raise money to open a club in Mexico, one which involves the very skill both are blessed with, robbing banks. The two will take the bank manager hostage the night before, go in with the person before the place opens, and be gone before anyone knows the difference. Joe’s friend Harvey handles the escapes and things go very well for them until Terry winds up bringing a beautiful woman Kate (Cate Blanchett) back to their hideout. Can the two robbers manage to remain focused and loyal, even with Kate’s affections up for grabs?
A surprise hit at the box office, Bandits has big name talent, a skilled director, and liberal doses of real cinematic magic. No, Bandits is not one of the best movies ever made, but it has that special chemistry that makes it rise above its flaws, even the obvious ones. It starts with some great writing, which lays out the storyline & superb character work, which allows the cast to really let loose some wonderful performances. Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett are all in top rank form in Bandits, with some excellent chemistry between them, to be sure. The relationships seem very real and potent, between any of the two of them, or even all three of them. It isn’t often three leads can work this well together and share the time so well, but the casting here was dead on and these three deliver on all counts. Bandits is just one of those rare movies that is a sheer pleasure to watch time and again, despite its flaws and setbacks. Even at over two hours, it remains brisk and never slows down, which is impressive indeed, since it bolts right out of the blocks. A warm, humorous, and highly enjoyable motion picture, Bandits simply couldn’t be more highly recommended, kudos to all those involved here.
In my opinion, Cate Blanchett is one of the top performers in the business, even when stacked up against high rank male workers. She more than proves that in Bandits, going head on with two high level male performers and not only holding her own, but often stealing scenes. This is especially true toward her arrival in the picture, where she lights up the screen and really drives home her character’s persona. The material demands that she take a lower profile in many sequences, but she is still on the mark and has terrific presence. I think she was the perfect choice to take on this role and of course, I hope she is able to get more prominent parts like this soon. Other films with Blanchett include Elizabeth, The Gift, Paradise Road, Pushing Tin, An Ideal Husband, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. The cast also includes Bruce Willis (The Whole Nine Yards, The Fifth Element), Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan, The Man Who Wasn’t There), and Troy Garity (Steal This Movie, Solomon Bernstein’s Bathroom).
Video: How does it look?
Bandits is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition included on the disc’s flip side. MGM continues to put out some ace transfers, as this one is as clean and sharp as we could want, very impressive work. I saw no print flaws, grain, or compression errors in the least, as this rates as one of the best efforts I’ve seen of late. This is due in part to how MGM chose to do this disc, which is a DVD-18 (dual sided & dual layered) and that means plenty of space, so no compression worries at all here. The colors are natural in scope, but look gorgeous here, some scenes are reference level, to be sure. No problems to report with the contrast either, as black levels are deep, sharp, and refined throughout. This is an excellent presentation in all respects, terrific work from MGM, a studio that has improved by leaps & bounds of late.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 is better than expected also, with great musical presence and some terrific use of the surrounds. The music is expansive and takes root, which is good news, since it has a prominent role in the film’s audio, to be sure. The surrounds come to life often and add atmosphere to the film, as well as some power in a few scenes. I still wouldn’t recommend this as a demo disc, but it sounds great and really takes the material to its limits, in a good sense. The vocals aren’t lost in the least however, still clean and crisp at all times. This disc also includes French, Spanish, and Portuguese language options, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc isn’t as loaded as some special editions, but has a solid selection of extras, though no audio commentary options were included. This is a shame, as director Barry Levinson has done some great ones and if he wasn’t available, I think one with a few of the cast members would have sufficed, but no luck. Even so, this disc has some cool stuff, such as Inside Bandits, a behind the scenes look at how the film was produced. This piece runs about twenty minutes and has some informative moments, but also some promotional fluff, so it mixes out to be about half and half, though still worth a look. A selection of four deleted scenes have also been included, as well as a brief, but priceless alternate end sequence. There is optional commentary by Blanchett on the alternate ending, which should not be missed. This disc also includes a short featurette about one of the film’s important scenes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.