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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bandits (Blu-ray)
Bandits (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // PG-13 // March 22, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted March 19, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

In January I raked director Barry Levinson over the coals for his terrible Rock the Kasbah, so it's appropriate that I was mailed Bandits to review. I saw this film back in 2001 but remembered little about it. Things start off well: Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton play "sleepover bandits" who kidnap bank managers before breaking into their banks the next morning. Cate Blanchett's lonely housewife joins them on the run, and an awkward love triangle begins. Blanchett is especially charming here, and Willis and Thornton are entertaining when they butt heads. Unfortunately, the second hour drags, and Bandits increases its focus on the less-appealing romantic drama. This is a decent but not especially memorable film for Levinson.

Back when Willis did not appear bored in every role, he took solid parts in ensemble films. His Joe Blake is the brawn, while Thornton's Terry Collins is the neurotic brains of the duo. They bust out of jail in a cement truck and start robbing banks again. The sleepover bandits never use violence, and instead kidnap bank managers to get them into the vaults without resistance. With the help of getaway driver Harvey (Troy Garity), the bandits end up on the FBI's most wanted list, and become the subject of crime reality show Criminals at Large. Kate Wheeler (Blanchett) walks out the door forever after her husband again rebukes her charms, and, after nearly running over Terry, she joins the men for an adventure. She first falls for Joe, but sleeps with Terry after the group becomes separated following a wreck. This puts the men at odds and their work becomes sloppy.

The opening hour of Bandits is quite good. Thornton and Willis are very funny in their bickering and backslapping, and the reality-show framing device Levinson uses is clever. The movie is a caper, comedy, road trip, love story hybrid, and it works well, for a while. Levinson paints interesting characters, giving Terry a hypochondriac's tics and nervousness, while Joe plays both with and against Willis' John McClane history. Blanchett is beautiful and bubbly, and my heart breaks for Kate when her husband suggests she "see a movie" instead of joining him for dinner. It's obvious why both men fall for Kate, but the love triangle becomes off-putting and dull. Levinson seems to suggest a farewell to normalcy in these characters, but the way this plays out is not terribly convincing.

In the end, Bandits feels like a film that squanders its potential. The directing caliber is strong, and the cast is perfect. But, Levinson inexcusably lets the film run a very long 123 minutes. There is plenty of material that could have been trimmed for a better pace, and most of the final act lacks the spark of earlier scenes. You'll either go with the ending or hate it. I went with it, but I was ready to hit eject in those final twenty minutes. Levinson does not exactly create tension in his heist scenes, and he becomes too involved in his own film, allowing the repetitive, talky banter to wear out its welcome. A lot works here, especially the acting, but the film as a whole lets down its performers.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Newly released in high definition from Olive Films, Bandits receives a respectable, imperfect transfer. The 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image starts out with some print damage and debris, but that cleans up quickly. There are hints of minor digital sharpening in the master, but nothing extreme. Fine-object detail is generally good, though some scenes display a softer appearance. Colors run a tad hot but are nicely saturated. Black levels and shadow detail are good, and I noticed only minor aliasing.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is reasonably immersive, with plenty of ambient effects to surround the viewer. Dialogue is without distortion, and is layered appropriately with effects and score. The LFE comes alive in some of the action bits. English subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release comes in a standard Blu-ray case and sports more attractive artwork than the MGM Special Edition DVD released in 2002. Unfortunately, none of that DVD's substantial features are carried over here. All you get is the Trailer (2:27/SD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

An exercise in diminishing returns, Bandits starts out well before floundering in its second half. Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett are all wonderful as robbers on the run, but director Barry Levinson gets bogged down in his own repetitive, talky narrative, and the film becomes dull. Rent It.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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