Considering the combined talents of Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett and Barry Levinson, it should come as no surprise that BANDITS ($27) is a very funny and very winning movie. Part crime story, part romantic comedy and part road movie, BANDITS combines the elements of these various genres into a frothy entertainment cocktail that tells the story of two criminals that escapes from prison and go on a bank robbing spree.
As it turns out, Joe Blake (Willis) and Terry Collins (Thornton) are two fairly charming rouges that come up with a unique way of robbing banks, thus allowing them completely control the situation and avoid bloodshed. The night before the robberies, Joe and Terry take the bank managers hostage and then go with them into the banks before the start of the business day. Their modus operandi soon earns them the nickname of "The Sleepover Bandits" and they find themselves media darlings, thanks to one of those reality TV crime shows. If the unwelcome notoriety wasnít bad enough, things are further complicated when bored housewife Kate Wheeler (Blanchett) becomes a long-term hostage and romantically entangled with both bandits.
BANDITS works wonderfully well because Barry Levinsonís direction is very assured, yet he allows his actors enough of a free hand to flesh out their characters. All three leading actors give completely charming performances, which allows the material to magically float and repeatedly tickle the audience. The cast of BANDITS also includes Troy Garity, Brian F. O'Byrne, Stacey Travis, Bobby Slayton, January Jones, Azura Skye, Peggy Miley and William Converse-Roberts.
MGM Home Entertainment has made BANDITS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. A full screen presentation is available on the opposite side of the DVD, but for the purpose of this review, the wide screen version of the film will be discussed. Producing a very sharp and well-defined image, the wide screen transfer is very clean, with almost no imperfections. Colors are strongly saturated, while flesh tones remain natural and very appealing- all of which is a credit to Dante Spinottiís wonderful cinematography. Blacks have a velvety appearance, plus the contrast is very smooth and the image produces a genuine sense of depth. This DVD-18 allows dual layer authoring to both sides of the disc, with no signs of digital compression artifacts on the wide screen presentation.
BANDITS features a somewhat laid back Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, which is a perfect fit to the comic material. Active sound effects do come into play on occasion, but are limited to scenes with car chases and gunfire. Otherwise, the soundtrack has an ambient sense of space and good musical fill. Dialogue is very natural sounding and is reproduced with full intelligibility. French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Included on the DVD is a twenty-minute featurette entitled Inside Bandits. The program is a lot better than the typical self-congratulatory PR piece, offering solid interviews with all the principals, which serve to explain the filmís gestation. Four deleted scenes that encompass some dropped subplots are included on the DVD, as is an alternate ending with a bit of commentary by actress Cate Blanchett. While interesting, all of the deleted material hit the cutting room floor for good reason- it added nothing significant to the story. Creating Scene 71 is another brief featurette that looks at the evolution of a scene, from the actual script to the layers added by the actors through improvisation. Closing out the DVD is a theatrical trailer for BANDITS, as well as HART'S WAR and WINDTALKERS.
BANDITS is a very likable film that benefits from a solid cast and good direction. MGM Home Entertainment has done a fine job with the filmís presentation on DVD, making this a disc that most folk will want to definitely check out.
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