Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett
Directed by Barry Levinson
MGM 2002
123 minutes

Bandits is a quirky crime comedy starring Bruce Willis and the great Billy Bob Thornton. Willis and Thornton play criminals Joe Blake and Terry Lee Collins. Collins comes up with the strategy of robbing a bank before it opens by taking the bank manager hostage the night before which earns them the nickname The Sleepover Bandits. They are assisted by lookout guy Harvey played by Troy Garity.

Billy Bob Thornton is the real star of Bandits. While Bruce Willis is competent as Joe Blake and Cate Blanchett is ordinary as the love interest, Thornton gets all the laughs in this crime comedy as his character is a hypochondriac. His character is also the brains of the operation, the one who most objects to Willis bringing along the weird dissatisfied housewife who almost ran him over. He also falls in love with her which causes some strife between the bandits.

Director Barry Levinson (Diner, Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man) does a decent job with Bandits but makes the mistake of beginning the movie by revealing the ending by having stand-up comic Bobby Slayton play an America’s Most Wanted kind of TV host reporting live from a bank robbery.

The comedy in Bandits is sometimes quite surreal. Especially funny, aside from Billy Bob Thornton, is the scene where Blanchett’s husband sends a televised message to his wife and her kidnappers. Also very funny is the scene where the sleepover bandits arrive at a home, are recognized by the homeowner and invited in as she says, “Well, let’s get started.” The rest of this particular heist is brilliant comedy.

Unfortunately, Levinson misses some great possibilities for some broad comedy and the script has a few slow points that do nothing much for the movie except make it about 15 minutes too long. This is because the love triangle between Blanchett, Bruce Willis, and Thornton does not quite work and this in itself is due to the fact Blanchett’s rather banal performance in admittedly a banal role.


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