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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bandits

Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thorton
Director: Barry Levinson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: October 2001
Genres: Action, Comedy, Suspense

*Also starring: Cate Blanchett, Azura Skye, Rocky LaRochelle, Troy Garity

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Here's a question for our women readers who are dating. What sort of man would you prefer: one who is strong and knows what he wants, or one who is quiet, somewhat intellectual, and has various symptoms of illness which are merely forms of hypochondria? The answer would seem obvious, and I wouldn't be surprised if 90% or more of you would list the first choice. Imagine what a relatively meek hypochondriac would feel if he pals around with the strong, confident type, what with all the women looking at the other guy and treating him as though he were invisible! Yet think of the kind of ecstasy the Woody-Allen type would experience if a woman actually chose him instead of his hardy pal!

Though "Bandits" is about bank robbery, the real theme of Harley Peyton's story directed by Barry Levinson--whose previous projects afford him experience with the genre like gangster pic "Donnie Brasco" and one about a mentally challenged guy, "Rain Man"--is the conflict between two pals who fall in love with the same woman and compete actively with each other for her favor. They're equally famous (or infamous) with the general public who know the pair as The Sleepover Bandits, but the forbearing Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) becomes increasingly competitive with his partner Joe (Bruce Willis) because he believes he will inevitably lose Kate (Cate Blanchett), the woman of his dreams, to him.

The story opens as a flashback. We watch Joe and Terry in one of their numerous disguises at work pulling a job on a west coast bank (the movie is filmed in gorgeous Oregon and in parts of California). They have apparently been sold out by an accomplice. The cops have the place surrounded. A narrator, who runs a TV show on crime and famous criminals, reports that the men have actually shot each other seemingly to avoid surrendering and going back to the jail from which they escaped, and then tells the TV audience the account he had heard directly from the well-known duo when Joe and Terry slipped into his house and insisted that he record their tale.

As a romantic comedy, "Bandits" thankfully avoids the saccharine nothingness of such current movies as "Serendipity," choosing an off-beat style to depict the unusual methods of these two robbers--who never fail to say "good morning" to their victims as they are initiating a job and wouldn't think of hurting any of them despite their possession of guns. Levinson shows Kate to be a woman who seems to have it all--a spacious house, the time and inclination to pursue her hobby of gourmet cooking--but who is unhappy because of her passive-aggressive husband and for whom living dangerously with these celebrated bandits would be just the prescription.

"Bandits" is overlong at over two hours and repetitive as well: how often can we laugh at Terry's descriptions of his alleged brain tumor, his migraine headaches, his twitches, his eye problem, his tintinnitus? There are cute meetings that the robbers, aided by their very willing female hostage, have with the people they are going to rob. What they do is enter the houses of bank managers the night before a planned job, have dinner with the executive and his family, and then force the guy to open the bank early and withdraw the money. But these victims, who are taken in by the charming personalities of their urban pirates, act in predictable manners, as does one family whose kids think the whole affair is a pleasant enough diversion and one older woman who escorts the duo in her bank and then refuses to open the vault knowing that "you wouldn't hurt a fly."

There is a surprising twist at the conclusion, one that I would challenge any in the audience to have guessed, and far fetched though it may be is the cleverest part of this generally average fare.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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