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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for some sexual content, language and violence

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
15 to Adult
Action, Adventure
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton in Bandits. Photo Copyright Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Featuring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity, Bobby Slayton
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer: David Hoberman, Ashok Amritraj, Paula Weinstein, Barry Levinson, Michael Birnbaum
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

If you like crime dramas, comedies, road trip, and silly odd couple type films, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy “Bandits”. Director David Hoberman has taken several different genres and bent them into a movie with few objections. But let me state right from the beginning that I firmly believe in the Ten Commandments. I believe that Christians should uphold them all in their lives (including “Thou shalt not steal”). “Bandits” (like the not-long-ago “American Outlaws”) is a film about bank robbers. If you are bothered by this premise, then don’t finish this review and skip out altogether. But if you like well written dramas that don’t insult your intelligence—then “Bandits” is a decent outing. Barry Levinson comes up with a likable script with a strong cast and crew that really contribute to the overall enjoyment of this film. Viewing “Bandits” in the packed theater was especially fun too, with spontaneous laughing echoing throughout. (How often does that happen?)

“Bandits” is about two escaped convicts: Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and friend Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thorton). While Billy Bob isn’t one of my favorite actors, he should without a doubt get an Oscar nod for his fine work. In an interview, Mr. Thorton informed that he really does have some phobias (including the one mentioned in the movie—an allergy toward antique furniture. His film persona is a brainy hypochondriac.) You can just tell when an actor is enjoying the role or just going through the motions, and both Billy and Bruce display great on screen presence and chemistry.

The two decide to rob banks and raise the money to move out of the country and start a business of their own. Terry comes up with the ingenious idea of sleeping overnight with the bank manager and going with them in the morning to the bank. The two quickly become folk heroes and earn the reputation as the Sleepover Bandits. We see them early in the film robbing their last bank and the story is told through flashbacks.

Cate Blanchett in “Bandits”. Photo Copyright Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Joe recruits cousin Harvey (Troy Garity) to drive the get-away car. Harvey longs to be a Hollywood stuntman and is challenged by the thrill. The threesome is just getting established when Terry is hit by a distraught and bored housewife named Kate (Cate Blanchett) out driving around. She joins the gang and becomes the object of the typical love triangle. Some of the gaps in our story are filled in by Darren Head (Bobby Slayton), who is the host of a TV show entitled “Criminals at Large”.

“Bandits” contains a little language and some violence. My main moral objection is the storyline surrounding the love triangle. Kate sleeps with both guys and is married to neither. I could’ve seen that one coming. They take the story one step further and imply that she may not have to choose between one or the other—Joe and Terry together make up the perfect man. How sweet. Fortunately, this triangle does not become a major part of the film.

The “PG-13” rating should be observed. Parents with teens should be cautioned of the theme of pre-marital sex and implied multiple partners. I do recommend the film with those cautions (we all understand that Hollywood usually does manage to mess up a good thing).

Viewer Comments
Negative—I was surprised you weren’t more negative on this movie review. Yes, Bandits could have been a lot worse, and yes by secular standards it’s tame, but c’mon, a lady leaves her husband because he’s a loser, (which granted, HE IS, big time) to fill her a void in bored little life with robbing banks and sleeping with two men? Since when does having a moronic husband justify desertion, adultery and stealing? Again, I wouldn’t expect a reaction to that from the non-Christian world but in a Christian review I would. Now all that said, it may be worth the price of admission just to get some acting lessons by watching Billy Bob Thornton, who continually gives us performances in a class all their own. In my humble opinion, he is absolutely flawless.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
Carole Lisson, age 48
Positive—The “bad” guys are the good guys in this well done action comedy drama. Well worth the money. For the sole purpose of entertainment, “Bandits” delivers. I saw some parents in the theatre with their kids, but “Bandits” is certainly not a film for children. There are several strong sexual situations as well as sexual language. There is also nothing redemptive from a christian point of view, but this movie doesn’t aim to go deep. it’s a not to be taken seriously comic ride with a team of misfits held together very well with an excellent performance by Billy Bob Thornton. Some of the most interesting characters in a while and one of the best films of the year. But for adults only.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
Todd Adams, age 34
Neutral—What is noteworthy about this film is that the script is extremely funny, the acting impeccable. I was amazed to find myself laughing until I cried several times from the humor of the moments. But the subject matter was not funny: theft, fornication, adultery. That is the problem for Christians with movies like this. It is structurally good, thematically and verbally well-crafted. Clever, fast-paced movie, with odd ball characters whom we can sort of like. But it glamorizes crime and sin, and in such a funny, appealing way. When you walk out, you must remember that this is a Hollywood movie and it is only a fantasy, and this kind of criminal activity in real life wouldn’t work and this is sin presented as something good.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4½]
Neutral—I thought the movie was pretty good. The only thing is that it is about bank robbers. And as you know stealing is a sin. I thing it was entertaining though. This movie had a some use of bad language, but not as much as other movies. The movie also was pretty funny. Well, I think this is one of those movies that you have to decide for yourself.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
E.M., age 14
Negative—“Thou Shalt Not Steal” is not the only commandment broken by this film. People seem to have overlooked the fact that Cate Blanchett’s character is MARRIED and STILL has sex with both thieves. Overall, the film has too many bad things about it to give it a chance…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Nori, age 18
Barry Levinson’s “Bandits” is a film about sin, and how fun sin can be. The film is immensely entertaining, but as a Christian, you have to stop and wonder if a film like this should be something to feed to our attention. …This movie often feels like a good television show—intertwining many colorful characters just to gain a laugh—and that is not necessarily a bad thing, and in “Bandits”, it works splendidly. The only other character of real mention is that of Kate (Cate Blanchett), whose performance as Joe and Terry’s befuddled lover is hilarious and Oscar-worthy. The only thing you have to keep coming back to is the fact of you being entertained by a subject matter that God warned against(remember “Thou shalt not steal.”) From a Christian family standpoint, the stealing aspect isn’t the only stopper. The film definitely earns its PG-13 rating. There are numerous non-explicit sexual scenes, including one involving teenagers. Kate sleeps with both Joe and Terry (which is also argued upon in several scenes), and profanity finds its way into the mix as well. In conclusion, if you can look past the stealing, sexuality, and language, “Bandits” does have heart. The film is directed flawlessly, and the ending sequences are nothing less than shocking. The characters are portrayed superbly, with exceptional performances from Willis, Thorton, and Blanchett, along with all of the other minor characters that are thrown in for genuine laughs. I’ve heard some call this a Robin Hood tale for our generation, but it is not—they don’t rob from the rich to give to the poor. Instead, this is an entertaining caper flick in the pattern of films like “The Sting” and “Where the Money Is.”
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4½]
Daniel Whittaker, age 18