Bandidas is a big live-action cartoon set in turn-of-the-century Mexico, where American interests threaten a small town’s well-being, forcing two sexy chiquititas—one poor (Penélope Cruz), one rich (Salma Hayek)—to steal from banks in order to feed the pockets of the local peasant people. Never has a film with Luc Besson’s fingerprints on it popped so little, but only directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg are to blame for the film’s lack of imagination. The story follows a very familiar trajectory from beginning to end, and though there’s no mistaking Bandidas for a relative of Frank Tashlin’s Son of Paleface, the script’s concessions to western and bank-heist movie formulas are not totally unattractive. The film begins with a scene of playful duplicity, during which Quentin Cooke (Steve Zahn), a criminal investigator, explains how a woman (who is really a man) walked into a room, sneezed after inhaling the pollen from a bouquet of flowers, only to then trip over a rug and smash her head on the floor, killing her on impact. It is then that the camera pulls back to reveal that Quentin was hawking his scientific powers of deduction before a room full of people. In Mexico, his talents will come in handy when Maria (Cruz) and Sara (Hayek) kidnap him, make kissy-kissy with him (he, naturally, finds them impossible to resist), and convince him that a ruthless entrepreneur, Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam), who murdered their fathers is out to steal the land of their people. The film, early on, comes down with a case of the cutes from which it never recovers (note the soundtrack that gamely sniffs out evil and the dog that clings to a perpetually hiccupping Hayek’s side), but Cruz and Hayek, whose accents will give Rex Reed a coronary, perk up the story whenever it sags, easing the load of the girlie-girl sexism that often overwhelms the film.
- Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg
- Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
- Penélope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn, Dwight Yoakam, Denis Arndt, Audra Blaser, Sam Shepard
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