2001 was a weird year.
Tim Burton was ruling the Planet Of The Apes, Billy Bob Thornton was married to Angelina Jolie and A Beautiful Mind was considered a good movie.
Also, a little Bruce Willis film was quietly nominated for a couple of Golden Globes.
That film was Bandits.
Directed by respected veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson (Rainman, Good Morning Vietnam), the film is a screwball heist comedy about a couple of mismatched bank-robbing pals nicknamed "The Sleepover Bandits" who meet an aimless, eccentric gal and together they all continue stealing dough while dealing with a pesky love triangle. I know, that's not much of a plot and, believe me, I'm making it sound better than it is. That said, Bandits' concept was a promising one: a Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid for the modern age but far more light-hearted and upbeat. The cast was/is solid and the trailer looked like fun.
Then the movie starts playing and, essentially, it's nothing but unconvincing dumb people doing unconvincing dumb things. And, although I guess that would have been fine had the film been funny, it's unfortunately hardly that at all. I would compare it to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang without the jokes but even then, without the jokes, that movie would have been an involving thriller. This is more akin to Conspiracy Theory without the jokes or the conspiracy. The film, by the way, is over two hours long which is absurd for what's meant to be a punchy little comedy with barely a plot to its name and it feels just as long as it is.
The sad thing is that Blanchett, Willis and Thornton are individually doing a decent job, it's just that their characters are so one-dimensional (the disillusioned wife, the cool playboy, the neurotic nerd) that they're completely unrelatable and never feel genuine. And neither do the people around them. Not only do these robbers not research the people they're about to rob but they somehow never have any issues with keeping entire families hostage over night. No-one ever tries to escape or call the police, everyone just gets along and somehow has a good time. Some people are even totally enjoying getting kidnapped, encouraging it almost! I realise the film was going for charmingly madcap but it just comes off as misguided and awkward.
Then there's that darned love triangle...
Just when you think that Cate Blanchett's character was about to develop interestingly and perhaps even lead us to a Matchstick Men-style twist ending, the film goes and reduces her to little more than a complication in the robbing buddies' dynamic duo. She yo-yos between one and the other before they all spend like 20 minutes talking about this situation and we're left wondering what the hell happened to the crime comedy we were originally promised. You could have easily cut like 45 minutes of this movie out and it would have made more sense than it does right now! The events in the film are intercut with an interview involving a couple of the characters and that completely gets in the way of the story, offering nearly nothing useful.
While the cast is likeable and the film itself has a couple of good ideas here and there, Bandits is still a missed opportunity. Overlong, not very funny, needlessly convoluted, this is ultimately just a thinly veiled excuse for having big name actors and actresses put on silly wigs for no good reason.
Oh, and sell that "Beautiful Day" U2 single, of course.
Butch & Sundance, this is disappointingly not.