by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Penelope Cruz as MARIA ALVAREZ
Salma Hayek as SARA SANDOVAL
Steve Zahn as QUENTIN COOKE
Dwight Yoakam as TYLER JACKSON
Denis Arndt as ASHE
Audra Blaser as CLARISSA
Sam Shepard as BILL BUCK
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg
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I am proud to admit that I’m a sucker for good looking women. What red-blooded American man isn’t? That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
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With this weakness, it’s not surprised that I was drawn to a movie like “Bandidas.” Before I received the DVD, I hadn’t heard of the movie. Unfortunately, it seems that studios are more and more frequently sending what would be major releases the DVD route rather than giving them a wide theatrical release.
“Bandidas” is one of those films. Usually, there’s a good reason for this, and I can’t say that “Bandidas” would have made much green in wide release. While Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek are fetching, they don’t carry the film that far.
Still, “Bandidas” was a pleasant surprise, especially for what is basically a DVD release. Like I said earlier, and it helps to have two gorgeous women headlining the film. Cruz and Hayek are stars in the Spanish-speaking markets, and they have both enjoyed cross-over success in English-language films. Hayek has better penetration than Cruz, which has to do with her higher caliber as an actor and a sex symbol. After all, much of Cruz’s fame came from the fact she was banging Tom Cruise a few years back in the pre-TomKat days.
“Bandidas” takes place in Mexico at the end of the 19th century. A greedy banker named Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam) has signed a deal with a Mexican bank – and schemed to murder the Mexican banker and many of the landowners – in order to get his hands on land for a future railroad. During his reign of terror, Jackson kills the father of Sara Sandoval (Hayek) and wounds the father of Maria Alvarez (Cruz).
Finding themselves as sudden targets by Jackson, Sara and Maria decide to put their heads together and hit Jackson where it hurts – in the bank. They seek out an old bank robber (Sam Shepard) and learn the art of the trade. Like female Mexican Robin Hoods, Sara and Maria steal much of the money back and become heroes to the people. However, this just makes Jackson all the more determined to capture them.
When it’s boiled down to its simplest form, “Bandidas” is your basic western story. It follows the formula well, all the way down to the greedy land-grabber. The catch for this film is that Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are much more fun to watch than Clint Eastwood ever was.
Ultimately, the directors know where their stars’ talents lie, and they’re not afraid to use them. Everything remains a safe PG-13, but we are treated to a nice segment where the girls dress up as barroom dancers in order to get in the good graces of a police investigator, played expertly by Steve Zahn.
Neither Hayek nor Cruz are acting powerhouses, but they manage through the film. Their chemistry isn’t as great as one might hope, but they work decently on screen. Dwight Yoakam plays things a bit over the top, more along the lines of a James Bond villain than a bad guy in a black hat, but taken within the context of the movie, things work.
The DVD comes with a commentary with both Hayek and Cruz, which is rather interesting. Both women give a better commentary than most actors, who tend to be overly focused on themselves. Other special features include a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Spanish language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.