I think that maybe my expectations were too high. Or maybe it was just that there were so many missed opportunities missed with Bandidas. Here is a film that stars Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek going around and robbing banks, all while getting to learn things about themselves. Is this a great idea? I think so. Did it work out all that well? Only somewhat.
We open by seeing our two main characters. Cruz is a farmhand named Maria, someone who doesn’t even know what a fingerprint is, or what it can be used for. Hayek is a spoiled rich person who has spent the last ten years studying in Europe, but has recently come back to Mexico. Her father owns a bunch of properties, land that an evil man named Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam) wants so that he can build a new railroad track or something. It doesn’t really matter why, it just matters that Mexican people are having their lands foreclosed and are either leaving their property, or being shot while resisting their forced departure.
The two first encounter each other when Maria breaks into Sara and her father’s house. Maria’s upset that her home has been targeted for foreclosure. So she’s going to talk to the property owner about it. She doesn’t get to though, as she’s stopped and forced to run away beforehand. When Sara goes back to her father, he’s dead, supposedly of a heart attack. She knows better though, so she runs away too. The next time these two meet one another, they’re both trying to rob the same bank.
The most surprising part is that they were successful. They manage to rob the bank, getting away without anyone pursuing them. The money they get supposedly could feed 500 people with rice and beans. Then we learn the reason each one of them decided to rob the bank. Maria wants to help the poor, while Sara just wanted revenge on the man who killed her father, and then wants to flee to Europe. She ends up being convinced to stay and help rob more banks, although they decide they should get some actual training before a second attempt.
I’ll leave the plot here, except for a couple of points. Firstly, Steve Zahn ends up chasing them at one point, as he’s a scientific police officer who can hopefully track them down. He’s necessary because the now-called “bandidas” have managed to rob multiple banks. If you thought this is turning into a heist movie, you’re wrong. The robberies themselves aren’t all that thrilling, nor do they last very long.
Instead, we’re mostly here to watch Cruz and Hayek play off against one another, while also having fun laughing their way through some action scenes. It’s fun for us to watch them do this, although all throughout, I wanted more. Not necessarily more of the plot or the actors, but I wanted things that were brought up to actually matter for more than one scene.
I’ll give you an example. In a training montage scene, we stop the montage for a moment and watch the pair learn how to shoot a gun. Maria already knows how, and can shoot a gun easily and accurately. Sara, on the other hand, has never shot before, and whenever she gets nervous, she hiccups. (We later learn that she can throw a knife with great precision though, so it’s okay.) Later in the film, while trying to rob one bank, Sara is forced to go on ice skates in order to step in the one-inch space that won’t trigger the alarm (it’s best not to ask). In the end, when she’s carrying the money back, after directly stating that she’s nervous, she sneezes and activates the sensors.
Now, wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity for her to hiccup and fall? It did to me, and this moment perfectly represented how much wasted potential there was. That hiccup thing only comes up once more, and it doesn’t do anything to impact the scene. There are more of these as well, although I honestly can’t remember specifics, nor would I bore you with them. I will say that things like class struggle and differences in nationalities are both almost completely ignored.
Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t give you anything you won’t suspect. There aren’t any twists, it’s as straightforward as you can think of, and it mostly just serves as an excuse ot have the two leading ladies go through action scene after action scene. that doesn’t necessarily stop it from being fun, but it does stop it from being memorable or surprising. The bad guy is a cartoon character, and so are our leads. Like I said, it’s still fun, but it’s just a popcorn flick.
The performances also aren’t all that great. I mean, do you really expect them to be? If you did, well, you need to look at your expectations. While everyone seems to be having fun with their roles, there’s little depth to their performances. There also isn’t much depth to their characters, with both characters ending up acting pretty much the same after they make their decision to rob banks.
Bandidas isn’t a bad movie, as it’s never boring, but it isn’t all that memorable, and it misses opportunities left and right while it’s playing. The actors have fun, but have little depth to their performances or characters, and any potential issues that are brought up by the plot are ignored in favor of our two leads going around robbing banks. That’s fun, and it makes for a good enough popcorn flick, but that’s as good as it gets, and you’ll likely forget it the next day.