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Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett;
Screenplay by Harley Peyton
Directed by Barry Levinson

IN SHORT: And we add another title to our Best of the Year list. [Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, language and violence. 120 minutes]

Every morning for the last couple of months we'd wake up, get ready for the day's screening(s) and fervently wish for something with a good story or believable characters or good acting or . . . you get the picture. Something fun. Most days if we get one, we're almost a happy camper. Today we feel like we don't want to get up tomorrow, 'cuz our screening of Barry Levinson's Bandits had everything you could want. More fun than is permissible in at least two states, whether conscious and/or unconscious. Great story. Great characters and acting. More laughs than anything else on the market. A winner on all counts.

We know what we expect of a film with Bruce Willis in it -- whether he's a good guy or bad guy, a Willis movie is a Willis movie. Billy Bob Thornton presents more possibilities -- Bandits is just one of two you'll see as we move into the Oscar race -- and the pairing of the two sparks enough interest that we would have laid down the green just to see whatever it was that Levinson (and screenwriter Harley Peyton) had dreamed up for us. What they dreamed up was a pair of jailbirds who, sometimes, argue like an old married couple. At times they are a smoothly functioning team. At all times they display absolutely no fashion sense and lousy choices in wig and false mustaches for their robberies. Lousy, in these cases, is very funny.

Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) are two of a kind. Joe is suave and a smooth talker. He's the one who always gets the girl and he has luck on his side -- thus a radical bust out of prison and a clean getaway for he and his partner comes easily. Terry is a neurotic bordering on hypochondriac. Free at last, the pair barrel down the west coast, forging a reputation as the most successful bank robbers of all time, until, of course, they die -- which is spilled right at the top of the film.

Their m.o. is simple. Not wishing to hurt any innocent bystander, the pair find out who manages the bank, "join them for dinner" the night before and then accompany them (and their hostage families) to the vault first thing in the morning for an early withdrawal. Media coverage crowns a new pair of celebrities and slabs 'em with the name "The Sleepover Bandits." The coverage is so thorough that managers recognize them when they show up -- and are thrilled to be "chosen"!

Along the way Joe and Terry are unwillingly hitched with the unhappily married Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett). The newspapers and teevee media aren't sure if Kate is a hostage or helpmate (or, perhaps has shifted from the former to the latter) but Joe is the first of our guys to fall for Kate's more than lovely charms. Best kiss he's ever had. Soon Terry joins that club and poor Kate must choose or lose.

Rounding out our merry bunch is Joe's cousin Harvey (Troy Garity), a would be pyrokinetic stuntman who pays more attention to a blonde hitchhiker (January Jones) that keeps crossing his path than he does to his job. That last line hides more story laughs and surprises than you can possibly imagine. All the while, you'll be laughing until it hurts.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Bandits, he would have paid . . .


A fabulous flick

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.