Bandidos, a Mexican film directed by Luis Estrada, is a little like a Sam Peckinpah film made for Disney. In 1913 just after the Mexican Revolution a young boy named Luis (Eduardo Toussaint) escapes a bunch of bandits in the forest outside the boarding school where he lives. When he returns he finds that the school has been completely ransacked and everyone is dead.
The next day a gang of four kids show up and Luis reluctantly joins them. The kids go across the country robbing people at gunpoint and trying to survive despite their feral naiveté. Ultimately the kid's goal – especially Luis – is to get revenge on the wicked bandits who killed his boarding school buddies and who continue to wreck havoc with everyone in the country.
The film has a grimy folk tale feel to it as well as some bawdy humor and shootouts that yield a few deaths. All this is fine but the film is inconsistent in its verisimilitude of the Mexican Revolutionary period. On one level director Estrada gets good natural, nuanced performances from the kids but from the adult actors he gets cartoon-like caricatures.
The film is also rather formulaic. Not only are there passing references to many Hollywood westerns including The Wild Bunch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Unforgiven, but it's pretty predictable all the way down the line.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is that due to its violent nature it is not really recommended for kids yet it's not really appealing for adults either.
The DVD transfer is pretty weak. It appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 but clearly was shot in 1.85:1 or something similar. The print is faded and has many scratches throughout – especially at reel changes. Considering the film was made in 1990 it's too bad there couldn't have been a better print available.
The sound is good. The dialogue can be heard just fine and the music – which consists mainly of strumming guitars, period Mexican music and some uplifting tunes – sounds fair.
There are no extras.
Bandidos is an average film about a gang of kid bandits in 1913 Mexico. It is both a gritty look at childhood in tough times but it is also a pretty conventional formulaic story. As a consequence the film - while certainly not unwatchable - doesn't necessarily appeal to either adults or children. The acting is good and the direction is okay – the main problem is the DVD transfer, which isn't appealing at any level.