Welcome Ladies and Gents to another edition of Beautiful Ladies of Genre. Tonight we have a film that I’ve seen at least a dozen times, and I’m not proud… or ashamed to be a fan of…..
People think that good old trash cinema is dead, but in the last two nights I watched Beyonce beat Ali Larter’s ass in Obsessed and the Norwegian directed spaghetti western homage Bandidas. The former was almost as good as you’d think, but the latter is one of my guilty pleasure films. Bandidas has got it all, action, comedy, Dwight Yokum with a crazy ‘stache, and yeah, two really hot actresses. What should I say about the stars? Salma Hayek? Remember her part in From Dusk Til Dawn? Yeah, me too. Penelope Cruz? Defiantly the highlight ofVanilla Sky. How could I pass up a film when it’s all dressed up in such a strange and sexy package?
Bandidas is the story of two Mexican women, Maria Alverez (Cruz) the daughter of a farmer whose land is being threatened by gringos, and Sara Sandoval (Hayek), the European educated daughter of the head of the town bank. When the sleazy Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yokum), an agent of a New York bank with railroad interests, hits town, he removes the two men who stand in his way. The men, of course, are the fathers of Ms. Alverez and Ms. Sandoval. The two women soon find their lots cast together when they both try to rob a bank at the same time, and after their escape, they become the Latina Robin Hoods you would expect. With help from prehistoric crime scene investigator Quentin (Steve Zahn), the Bandidas flirt, rob, and ride their way into legend.
First off, I like girls in Western films. Bad Girls? Yes. The Quick and the Dead? Yes. Gang of Roses? Hell, yeah! So a film like Bandidas is an easy sell to me from the onset, but this film did something to really sell me. It seems completely aware of what it is and Cruz and Hayak could not look like they were having more fun. When you wrap all that up in a pacey story then you’ve really got something. The story is one of the best things this film has going for it, and it surprised me that it came from prolific film scribe Luc Besson and his Transporter co-writer Robert Mark Kamen. While all the films based on his scripts don’t all share the same production value, the best of them like Wasabi (2006) and 1998’s The Fifth Element hit the mark. Bandidas is a more middle of the road effort, but its tone and the flow of the action sequences clearly follows Besson’s style.
Both actresses are very good, but neither of them was taking this film very seriously. That’s not a criticism though. If this flick was not played for campy laughs, then it would have been a horrid bore. Cruz and Hayek perfectly fit their archetypes with Hayek providing most of the laughs as the spoiled rich girl turned bank robber. Cruz meanwhile plays the straight man as the cute, earnest farm girl. Steve Zahn probably had to get no further in the script than when the girls having a kissing contest with his character before he took the part, but the scene stealer in this film was Dwight Yokum. Equipped with a stringy black wig and a growth of facial hair I can hardly begin to descibe, Yokum’s Tyler Jackson is the very picture of a slime ball. Yokum is always reliable if you need a complete asshole in your film, and with his role in Bandidas, he hams it up anytime the camera rests on him for a second.
One of the mysteries of this film has always been directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. This Norwegian directing duo had only one short film to their credit when they were hired to shootBandidas, and I can only assume that since Luc Besson had a hand in producing the film that he recommended the pair. Working with Luc Besson’s cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, the pair put together a film that had the look and feel of a modern take on the Italian western. The soundtrack to the film by Eric Serra tried to take this a little too far though, and some of the tracks sound like copies of Morricone’s works.
Bandidas is a film I recommend to folks who want to watch a film to have a good time. There’s nothing else you should expect going into it. It’s not going to make any best of genre lists or become anyone’s favorite film, but for my money for ninety minutes of pure escapism, then you can’t do much better than Bandidas.