Directed by Barry Levinson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Troy Garity, Bobby Slayton.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content, language and violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
October 14, 2001

Well, this is the first time in a while that I've been able to review a film during its opening weekend. It's good to be back, and Bandits is a good film to start over with.

Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton play a couple of bank robbers who break out of prison. On the run, Thornton hatches a plan to make enough money to get them to Mexico where they can retire. Quite simply, they case out a bank during the day, follow the manager home, take him or her as a hostage, then do the robbery first thing in the morning with no tellers or customers on the scene to get in the way, and no alarms to sound since they'll effectively have the key to the place.

The scheme works quite well repeatedly as they work their way down the Pacific coast, and they gain notoriety as "The Sleepover Bandits". The gang recruits Willis' cousin (Troy Garity) as a frontman, and along the way they pick up a frazzled woman (Cate Blanchett) who is willing to help out, but could come between them.

This love triangle and the episodic heist plot are nothing noteworthy, but Bandits isn't interested in being a serious film. Director Barry Levinson just wants to keep the laughs coming, and he does to great effect with the screenplay by Harley Peyton. Ironically, Peyton is a newcomer to comedy, being best known as one of the primary writers of "Twin Peaks" and only a few feature films, all of them dramas. Yet somehow this is one of the funniest films I have seen all year.

A lot has to do with the three leads, who have a good comic rhythm together. Much of the humor is character-based, with some funny situations thrown in, making the film seem like a feature-length pilot for a sit-com starring Willis, Thornton, and Blanchett. It would certainly be a good show, especially if Levinson directed each episode. He adds enough cinematic touches to keep the film visually interesting, and maintains the nonchalantly dark tone that this story requires to work.

I know that I'm not alone in enjoying this film, so it's surprising that it hasn't done better at the box office. I know I needed a good laugh, and that's what Bandits provides, so I'd definitely recommend to anyone else looking for the same thing.

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Bandits (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan