Bandidas (2006)

(On DVD, June 2008) Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek as late-19th-century Mexican outlaws: Can this film get any better? More importantly: does it even matter? This isn’t high art: as a Zorro-like feature, this film is equally underwhelming when it comes to comedy and action: There is a lot of both, but it rarely rises above the most obvious material. Luc Besson’s hand in the script is instantly recognizable whenever the two lead heroines quarrel over how to kiss the nearest unavailable guy, severely undercutting whatever pro-feminist message the films might have wanted to carry. The action is brief and ordinary (save for a bravura shot late in the film that tries to show a complicated sequence of events in one-take slow motion), though it may not matter as much as you think given then film’s reliance on silly capers rather than gun-slinging action. Fortunately, Bandidas itself is generally enjoyable: although practically released straight-to-video in North America, the film is more enjoyable than many blockbusters, and often prettier. Leaving aside the hotness of the lead actresses, there is some fantastic cinematography here, with wide sweeping shots of the Mexican countryside and a crisp, fun-filled feel to the images captured by the camera. Though some scenes could have been tightened (especially during the generic, imposed first act), the film moves in high gear once the protagonists go naughty and the rest is decent, reasonably enjoyable entertainment. As far as B-movies go, this is a solid rental choice… especially if the very thought of Cruz and Hayek tussling around in frilly underthings is enough to perk your, er, interest.

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