Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bandidas (2006)

I was excited about Bandidas, having read on the internet that Steve Zahn, one of my favorite actors, was in it. However, when I saw it in the store, I was apprehensive about the suitability of the film due to the choice of the picture on the cover – two women dressed in midriff-baring bustiers and modern low-rise Western-style jeans, accessorized with ammunition belts, pistols, and throwing knives. You may have disregarded the movie entirely based on the cover. The old adage does apply here – don't judge this DVD by its cover! The outfits worn by Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz on the DVD cover photo are not actually in the movie. The actresses are fully dressed in period costume throughout most of the movie. (A quick google search shows at least 3 other DVD covers for other countries that are much more appropriate!)

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Maria (Penélope Cruz) is the impetuous daughter of a poor Mexican farmer whose farm has just been repossessed illegally. Sara (Salma Hayek) is the cultured daughter of the richest man in town, a banker who has unknowingly been instrumental in the repossessions of the land of the villagers. The daughters team up to reclaim the land (and the gold) for the people, in a sort of Mexican Robin Hood tale. Rob from the rich, in this case, the evil New York bank, and give to the poor, the Mexicans whose land was stolen. Along the way they enlist the help of a retired bank robber (Sam Shepard) and a criminologist (Zahn) sent to help track them down.

The film opens with a bespectacled crime-solving Quentin Cooke (Zahn) showing his Sherlock-Holmes-type skills. We don't see him again until half an hour into the movie as the characters of Maria and Sara are introduced and their evolution into “bandidas” is shown.

The commentary states that Hayek and Cruz wanted to make a movie together and they do interact with one another well. This is a female “buddy” movie with a Western theme, and the opposing personalities portrayed by the two actresses set up an interesting counterpoint as the movie gets rolling.

The obligatory catfight between the girls is, of course, included, but the film does refrain from exploring further risque possibilities, with one notable exception. This is an offensive scene in the criminologist's hotel room where the bandidas, uncharacteristically and scantily dressed as Vegas-type showgirls, tie him naked to a bed, snap incriminating photos of him, and elicit necessary information from him. They both kiss him sensuously which turns into a running gag for the rest of the film. (This scene is located in the middle of Chapter 11 and lasts about 5 minutes.)

Once they've recruited the criminologist to assist them in their “rob the rich” schemes, the movie really gets rolling. Donning costumes, the ladies take turns pairing up with Quentin to scope out and rob more banks, which gets progressively more difficult. The villain, played by Dwight Yoakam, works for the New York bank, and makes it his personal mission to track down the bandidas and see them hanged. Some laughs and clever dialogue help the story along.

Is this movie appropriate for children? The showgirl scene described above makes it ill-suited for kids, although if those five minutes were skipped, the remainder of the movie is fairly innocuous standard Western-style violence intermixed with comedy. In my opinion, the child who has seen other PG-13 films would find little else shocking in this film. My own children have not seen it, however, I would not discount the possibility of them, especially my oldest, watching an edited version of the film at some future date.

This isn't an extraordinary movie, or a significant one, but it is an enjoyable lighthearted Western comedy that definitely deserves its PG-13 rating. If you're looking for a fun Western, this fits the bill!

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