Let the Bandidas entertain you, I command it!
You know, it’s not nice to judge. But that’s what I did to Bandidas. “Straight to DVD, psshhhtt.” I scoffed. I even schooled my mother in the ways of straight to DVD. “Listen,” I professed arrogantly, “…two A-list stars in an action adventure western and it goes straight to DVD. You know what that means Mom? It’s going to be terrible!” But even scoffy little old me couldn’t resist the gravitational pull of such appeal. Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are great actresses. Granted they quite often don’t get the parts they deserve, but sometimes they do. When they do they are really great actresses. Rent Frida or Abre los ojos then argue with me. But put them in a buddy comedy featuring Steve Zahn, (I will never get enough of Steve Zahn, please see Safe Men.) flashy costumes, and gunfights! Who am I to resist?
So we rented it. I popped it in the DVD player, when what to my wandering eyes should appear? Luc Besson’s name several times in the credits. Luc Besson is a major writer and director for those of you who don’t know. He has had a long career full of hits and misses, but nothing dull or uncreative. He’s the man responsible for the Fifth Element. It is in my opinion, one of the only space films ever to escape both the stylistic imprints of Star Trek and Star Wars. No small feat, and I am his fan for that reason and many others. In case you couldn’t tell from his name, he’s also French. Now it’s a French version of an American western starring two Latin actresses.
The pace is too quick at times, but that’s not detrimental to the film. I’d like to coin a new term for this movie that can be retrospectively applied to many others…Vaudevillian Female Empowerment. Yep, you heard me. As a movie full of pretty good physical comedy, a few touching scenes of emotion, and mostly flat characters it feels like an old Vaudeville show. But here’s the thing about Vaudeville and Bandidas both, it’s okay if it’s not Oscar worthy material. You don’t mind, because you’re having fun. As a woman, I had fun. Any man who has a pulse will watch this movie and have fun. It’s a hero story at its core. A Robinhood movie for sure, and though Hayek and Cruz play it a little too campy for my personal taste at times…it’s certainly forgivable.
Bandidas is well worth a look. Dwight Yoakam plays “the” bad guy. Yes, he’s still acting in westerns. Sam Shepard pops up as a wise old bank robber and facilitates the all-important training montage. The music is a little odd at times, probably a consequence of a trimmed budget. But like the rest of film, it’s not off kilter enough to destroy the whole package. Look out for the usual borderline sexist moments, such as Hayek teaching Cruz the proper way to kiss a man, who happens to be a naked Zahn tied to a bed. Shaky ground writing wise, it felt a lot like an excuse to placate the men in the crowd. If you like any of the actors involved, or the genres attempted definitely see this movie. If not, you may want to skip it. I certainly recommend it, if you give it a chance it’s a really fun little flick. Maybe you should know this. I really liked Bandidas, but I also loved Tomb Raider.
Vaudevillain Female Empowerment. It’s here to stay I tell ya.