Bandits (2001)

Directed by Barry Levinson

Some years ago, maybe around the time of Pulp Fiction, Hollywood developed a new kind of movie genre which I call the chimera.

In Greek mythology, the chimera has a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. In other words, it’s a hodge podge.

So I call certain movies chimeras because they’re several styles all thrown together, higgledee-piggledee.

Bandits is such a film.

It’s action adventure. It’s comedy. It’s crime drama. It’s romance. (It’s not science-fiction, however.)

I think this smorgasbord approach began with Pulp Fiction because that film seemed to be a noir film while also being a comedy. It’s sort of like The Maltese Falcon meets His Girl Friday or something.

The bandits: Joe Blake (Bruce Willis), Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett) and Terry Lee Collins (Billy Bob Thornton).

Soon we began seeing all kinds of movies that blended styles, like Get Shorty (noir, comedy, romance). Last year we saw The Mexican (noir, comedy, romance, western). And now, Bandits.

Why? Beginning as an interesting, and successful idea (like Pulp Fiction), I suspect now it has more to do with market research and trying to appeal to as many demographic groups as possible, and jigging a script so there is no “dead space,” meaning moments when the audience’s attention may falter.

It seems a dumbass way to make movies but I suppose as long as the ROI (return on investment) is good for the people backing the movies, we’ll continue to see them.

In the case of Bandits, I think we have one of the few successful chimeras. But this, I believe, has nothing to do with the script. It is the performances and the directing/editing.

Cate Blanchett as Kate Wheeler enjoys lip-syncing in the kitchen.

There are some incredibly funny scenes, especially with Bill Bob Thornton (as a hypochondriac bank robber), and Cate Blanchett is wonderful too (as a kind of flighty housewife who gets caught up with two convicts).

Bruce Willis is also great in a type of role he’s done before (like The Whole Nine Yards), the likeable tough guy. But he’s mastered it so well he delivers his lines and scenes flawlessly.

You also get the impression that the three leads all enjoy working with one another, and this works well on screen.

There is also some great cinematography and production design, things you really wouldn’t expect to see in this kind of a movie. The movie, overall, simply looks good.

And it is good. Which surprises the hell out of me since it is so many types of movie, jumping back and forth and all over the place from one genre to another.

But that’s a chimera for you.

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