He Said, She Said: “Bandits”


By Noah Davis & Kit Bowen

Hollywood.com Staff

Bandits looks at what happens when two escaped cons decide to go on a bank-robbing spree to finance a getaway to Mexico-and run into a woman who changes both of their lives. Our trusted reporters look at how the film rates as a heist movie and how well the three main actors-Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchett-got along.

Hollywood.com: Is Bandits more a comedy than a movie about a crime spree?

Kit Bowen: I thought it was certainly much more a comedy. It reminded me a lot of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But it’s also a really great character study, which I found to be the most surprising element. I was expecting more action.

Noah Davis: Kit’s right. It’s more of a comedy. And it’s Barry Levinson‘s style of comedy–exemplified in his first and still best movie, Diner–derived from stand-up and improv. It’s loose-limbed, off-the-cuff, and dependent on the personalities of the actors and their ability to riff on whatever comes up in conversation. That’s not to say it’s unplanned, but that it’s constructed so well as to make it look entirely spontaneous. Bandits is very funny, and the crime spree story line comes second.

Hollywood.com: And speaking of characters, with three dominating personalities–Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett–whose movie is this really? Or are they able to share the spotlight?

Davis: There’s no doubt this is Billy Bob’s show. Bruce Willis has a charming role as a vulnerable middle-aged wise-ass–probably not too much of a stretch acting-wise–and Blanchett is adequately nutty as the housewife-cum-accomplice. But Billy Bob’s neurotic, hypochondriac, yet intelligent Terry always gets the last funny word. Billy Bob delivers my favorite line in the movie: “Kate is an iceberg waiting for the ‘Titanic.”’

Bowen: Yeah, that was a good line. Although I live to disagree with my colleague, I’d have to say the same thing. Thornton is wonderfully neurotic in this and is the one who goes through the most changes. However, as a collective three, the actors worked enormously well with one another. I’m thinking there might be a sequel.

Hollywood.com: And movies of this nature–crime sprees, bank robberies–which one is your favorite?

Bowen: Well, I absolutely loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid precisely for the same reason I liked Bandits. It’s about underdogs, in a way, committing crimes, but doing it with a sense of humor and not for evil. And how I love to watch how the characters deal with each other.

Davis: I tend to go more for the glamorous side of heist movies, rather than the zany comedies. My favorite is The Thomas Crown Affair remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. Very classy, very debonair, and incredibly fun to watch.

Bowen: Ah, but Noah, the original Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway was so much better. Silly boy.

Hollywood.com: It’s clear that Barry Levinson is a major talent in Hollywood. What makes the films he’s directed so well-done and so popular?

Davis: Levinson isn’t perfect. He has peddled his share of slick, sentimental junk (The Natural, Toys,). Still good movies, of course, but he’s beloved for his scrappy wit and the wry sense of human oddness that distinguish works like Bandits, Diner, Tin Men and the early episodes of the NBC series Homicide. Levinson also knows when to release the directorial reigns and allow his actors to take over the scene, providing us with some great, real pieces of dialogue.

Bowen: I’m not a huge fan of Levinson‘s movies, especially his classics like Diner and Tin Men. I characterize those films more as “guy flicks” than anything else. I know I’m in the minority here, and I’m sure Noah will have a field day with my comments. However, I do feel Levinson has a way with his actors and allows dialogue to flow naturally. My favorites of his might have to be Rain Man and Wag the Dog. And now Bandits.

Davis:Kit’s right. I could have a field day with her comments. Diner, though dominated by a male cast, isn’t a “guy flick” any more than Sex and the City is a “chick flick,” um, television show. If there’s witty banter and an honest portrayal of relationship, it should be interesting to everyone, and that’s ultimately what Levinson‘s movies give us.