I'm a Barry Levinson fan from way back. Most of us that saw THE NATURAL, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM and RAIN MAN in the 80s were immediately on board with him for a while at least. While I certainly enjoyed those, it was his film DINER that truly won me over. I didn't see that until a bit after the others, but I was floored by its amazing ensemble cast and the sense of time and place it offered up through Levinson's eyes. DINER still doesn't get quite enough credit alongside movies like AMERICAN GRAFFITI (which DINER is superior to) as a true classic. While Levinson has certainly stumbled (TOYS comes immediately to mind), he also has a cache of underrated movies in his later output. WAG THE DOG and LIBERTY HEIGHTS are certainly both worthwhile efforts and they don't get talked about much nowadays. BANDITS is one of those films that fell into a blindspot for me. It came out in 2001 and I seem to recall it being relatively poorly reviewed so I just skipped it. It's funny how skipping a movie at the time of its initial release can sometimes drop it into a pocket of limbo wherein it disappears off the radar forever. As BANDITS got a DVD release soon after the time it came out and hasn't gotten a Blu-ray release until now, there was a long gap in there where it just kind of vanished. Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis are no longer the icons of box office success they once were. Cate Blanchett has continued to demonstrate her mastery of the acting craft since then and has really gotten more recognition for it in the last 5 years or so it seems (though she has consistently drawn critical attention with her work). So the cast makes this movie possibly worth another look. I guess I can see how some folks at the time might have found this caper/kidnapping comedy a little flat back in 2001. Let's also not overlook the fact that this movie hit theaters about a month after 9/11 and audiences just may not have been ready for this kind of levity just yet. The movie was a financial flop back at the time, only recouping about 68 of its 75 million dollar budget (kind of a high price tag for a studio comedy at that time it would seem). I am fascinated by the de-contextualizing of movie failures though. Contextualizing is fun too, but to allow a movie to age and then look at it again minus all the baggage surrounding it's specific theatrical run is quite a neat thing sometimes. Certain films fail because they are shoddily made or have some issues in the performances or writing that were never quite worked out during filming or post production. Other films fail because of bad timing. Now I'm not saying that BANDITS is some unsung masterpiece. It is definitely not that. It is however and entertaining (if overlong) crime comedy that some folks may find worthwhile upon re-examination. It's kinda neat that the original idea for the movie is based on a couple thieves that used to rob banks by making their way into the bank manager's house the night before and kidnapping them the next morning to assist the men in pulling off their heists. From the behind the scenes featurette (included below), they sound like extremely fascinating criminals. There are things about the movie version of them that could put people off I suppose. Billy Bob Thornton's portrayal of the hypochondriac, anal retentive "Terry" could drive you nuts. I actually found him pretty darned funny. The back and forth between him and Bruce Willis was, for me, somewhat reminiscent of old screwball comedies. Again, BANDITS isn't Preston Sturges, but the two leads and their matter-of-fact approach to criminal behavior can play pretty humorous. Thornton's basically got a mumbly, running narration going through a good part of the movie. He's commenting or complaining nearly nonstop and it'll either endear itself to you or annoy the crap out of you. It's a toss up, but the movie won me over ultimately and I'm glad it finally got a Blu-ray.
"Inside BANDITS" - Making of Featurette:
BANDITS can be purchased on Amazon here:http://amzn.to/1Rm6jpS