Bandits (Blu-ray Review)

BanditsAcademy Award winning talent – Cate Blanchett (Best Actress, Blue Jasmine), Billy Bob Thornton (Best Screenplay, Sling Blade), and Barry Levinson (Best Director, Rain Man) – join forces in the criminally funny Bandits.  Barry Levinson (Rain Man) mines cinematic gold in Bandits, starring Cate Blanchett, Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense) and Billy Bob Thornton. Evoking memories of another silver screen trio – Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy in Test Pilot.  This comic caper also co-stars January Jones (TV’s Mad Men), William Converse-Roberts (Kiss the Girls) and Troy Garity (Barbershop, Jane Fonda’s son)

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Joe and Terry, escaped convicts on the lam planning to rob a few banks to fund a new life just south of the border. On the other side of town you have Kate Wheeler, a woman also on the run – from an unhappy marriage. Fate intervenes when Kate runs into Terry (quite literally) with her car. She soon finds herself joining the boys on their cross-country trek.

Barry Levinson’s film about a group of bank robbers called “the sleepover bandits” was a film that opened solid at the box office back in 2001 and made what looked like a solid haul for the type of film it was, but when you spend 75 million on something like this a 67 million intake isn’t going to cut it.  It did manage to garner some award season recognition for its performances from Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.  The film was also Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson’s last relevant film until he made a splash on the found footage horror scene with The Bay in 2012.

The film has a fun plot, but what works the best in it is the chemistry and scene between the three leads.  After enjoying working with each other on Armageddon, Billy Bob Thronton and Bruce Willis wanted to be some sort of working duo of actors doing movies together every couple years.  But, that buck winded up stopping right here.  And that’s a bummer, because when they went for it this one time it yielded some fantastic results.  This also remains one of my absolute favorite Thornton performances as he place the uneasy and loony Terry Collins.  I still always laugh and have to rewind the “Beavers and ducks!!” moment every time I watch it.  Another funny one is the “It’s the police” part.

Cate Blanchett holds her own with the boys her and really delivers an incredibly believable character arc as you watch her travel from a weepy weakened unappreciated housewife to a hardened bank robber.  She’s a piece of a love triangle that the two boys fight over her like a prize to be one.  But, make no mistake, the film recognizes that and let’s Blanchett’s character hold strong and sort of actually command the situation and not fall into a trap of just being a sexual object for the two men to fantasize over.  And man, she is incredibly smoking hot in the movie too.  She’s also an incredibly fun character.  It’s a joy to watch her dance, sing and weep to Bonnie Tyler ballots.  Also to note that this is the second film in a trilogy of movies using “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” in a significant or memorable moment in the film (the first being Urban Legend and the last Old School).

A lot of the fun in this film has to do with the bank robberies and seeing how the inner workings of the clock.  Their interactions with the bank managers and people they hold hostage proves for some pretty funny comedy (in which Billy Bob Thornton is a big time scene stealer).  Also, a lot of the outfits the group wears provide some good laughs as they dress pretty ridiculous.  Their story is tracked with a show called “Criminals At Large” with longtime comedian Bobby Slayton playing the host. This is probably the best role I’ve seen him in and he nails it.  There are also a lot of good musical cues and songs used in the film.  Aside from two Bonnie Tyler classics, you’ll probably have U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Bill Withers’ “Just The Two Of Us” randomly pop up in your head throughout the following week.

The ending to the film is a little predictable and quite a bit cheesy, but I can’t help but laugh and enjoy it.  I think the film has done enough good will leading up to it that it’s earned the right to end on its own terms.  A side note- oddly enough, until I just viewed it in preparation for this article, I had no idea it was January Jones who played Troy Garity’s girlfriend in the film.  But, hey, it’s an ideal role as she is only seen most of the time and has a total of like two lines.  The film itself has so much great humor and interplay between the actors it beefs up a lot of the downtime between robberies in the plot.  It also has fun with its “real life” type approach to many scenarios with polite ex-cons interacting with “regular Joe” civilians.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Bandits is on Blu-ray!  Makes me happy!  However, the transfer…well…its pretty underwhelming.  Its a pretty soft picture, with detail being “okay”.  its a pretty average looking image, with times that will look great and impressive, but overall leaves you wanting more. 

Depth:  Depth is merely decent here.  Some blurred movements here and there.  In static shots, background images look good in terms of detail.

Black Levels:  Blacks are definitely the weakest point of the transfer.  There is plenty of murkiness and some anomalies that come with it.  The blacks sort of reminded me a bit of how Halloween: H20’s blacks behave on Blu-ray.  Might be the film stock used.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are solid.  Given how well a scene is lit can make a difference too.  Greens look really nice and Cate Blanchett’s hair looks good and fiery.

Flesh Tones:  Skin is natural looking and maintains a consistent appearance throughout the length of the film.  Close-ups provide the best look at detail.  Some smoothness present at times but nothing incredibly bothersome in this field to report.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and a couple bits of specs/dirt.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Bandits had a 5.1 track to go with it on DVD, but I’m not quite sure where it went here.  Classic from Olive Films here to go with the 2.0.  Its a solid track and hits some of the action with good precision, but its lacking the boost the 5.1 mix would have given it.  As is, its very fine and above average for 2.0, I’m just baffled that the 5.1 is gone knowing this could have been done better.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, clean and set to appropriate volume.

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Trailer (HD, 2:27)

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Bandits was a terrific under-seen film back in 2001.  I remember in college I had a professor that liked it so much, we watched in class (It was a film class mind you).  Still to this day, the performances of its three leads; Blanchett, Thornton and Willis catapult it to higher grounds of respect and appreciation.  A comedy hitting on all the right notes and strengths that it has to.  This Blu-ray does’n’t quite hit those notes, but its still very good in its picture and audio presentations.  Unfortunately none of the extras from the DVD were brought over.  However, I am very please this one finally came to Blu-ray, and its got a great price tag too!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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