Starring: Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Steve Zahn, Dwight Yoakam, Sam Shepard
Director: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Mood: If everything in your life is going way too well and you know you’re due for a massive crash and you want to take matters into your own hands and choose where and when everything starts to suck.
I wasn’t sure I should review Bandidas, since after watching it I wasn’t convinced that it was a Western. But Rotten Tomatoes calls it an ‘indie Western’, and I bought it thinking it was a Western, so goddammit it will face my wrath.
If I can save that 93 minutes for even one person, it will be worth it.
I was so ready for this to be my new favourite cheesy, sappy Western comedy. It had so much potential – it appears to be an alternative sort of Western, focused on Mexico instead of the U.S. (yay, fresh POV), and it’s about two women.
Not just any two women – Salma F*cking Hayek and Penélope Cruz. They’ve both won multiple awards for their acting chops. I’ve been a Hayek fan since Dogma. To me, she’s the total package: smart, funny, and a strong social activist and philanthropist. Yes, she’s also ridiculously good looking, but so much more than that.
When I started watching Bandidas I was imagining Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead, times two. Or an Old West version of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. A smart, empowering female movie.
I was so, so, SO wrong. This was Wild Wild West all over again.
Bandidas is massively disappointing, because instead of being a strong female-driven Western comedy, it’s just another movie that depicts women as dim-witted sexpots who need the approval of literally any man they can find.
Yes, that era was totally horrid for women. They couldn’t vote, they couldn’t own land, and they were usually just fodder for raping and pillaging. But Hayek and Cruz each have enough clout to choose their projects, influence storylines, and to elevate female roles in any genre. They read this script, and still willingly signed on to play these parts. WTF.
Bandidas is set in 1848 Mexico. It follows two women from polar opposite backgrounds – a poor Mexican farm girl named Maria (Cruz) and Sara, the rich Spanish daughter of a Don (Hayek). They’re both out to avenge attacks on their fathers, which left Sara’s father dead and Maria’s seriously injured.
The man responsible for their suffering is Tyler Jackson (Dwight Yoakam). They join forces to take him down by robbing banks where his money is kept, and give that money to the farmers whose land was stolen.
Both happen to have excellent horsemanship. I could have loved Bandidas for that alone, but the plot is SO F*CKING BAD that even Salma Hayek doing dressage couldn’t warm my shattered heart.
Maria (Cruz) is supposedly a tough farm girl, yet she goes through the entire movie wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse with no visible support (and strapless bras weren’t invented until the 1930s). No farm labourer, equestrian, or bank robber would EVER wear that. Sara (Hayek) is a European boarding school-educated, upper class sweetheart, yet until almost the last scene we’re staring into the deep crevasse of her cleavage – again, this wouldn’t have been done.
I swear to all things holy (aka waffles), the only reason this movie was made was for boobs. The DVD case literally describes Bandidas thus:
- “Wild, sexy, and action-packed”
- “Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz have never been sexier”
- “These two beauties become unlikely outlaws”
It’s great that they’re pretty, and that they have awesome boobs. Good for them! But could we have been given a few scraps of plot meat to go with those boobs?
I would have been fine with all the impractical outfits (it works for Wonder Woman) if the roles were smart, strong, or at least goal-oriented (like Wonder Woman). Yet they spend the entire time they’re supposedly avenging their fathers’ attacks competing in a f*cking kissing contest.
Oh yeah, Steve Zahn is in Bandidas, but there’s no reason to mention him. He has no purpose other than a male body both women can make out with and then argue over who is the better kisser.
If you always wanted to see Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek sitting astride a naked, bespectacled man tied to a bed, taking turns making out with him… you’re the target audience for Bandidas, enjoy.
Hayek and Cruz are among the many Latina women who had to play ‘the help’ for years before landing lead roles. They face constant discrimination in their industry: inequality in pay based on gender, lack of good roles for women of colour, and how male lead actors get say over who is cast as the lead female.
So why the f*ck did they make this movie?