Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton & Cate Blanchett Team Up in this Entertaining Caper

Barry Levinson of Rain Man fame directs this charming, comedic crime caper. Two charismatic bank robbers become national sensations when they become known as the “Sleepover Bandits.” Everything is going well for the friends until a woman played by Cate Blanchett gets between them. Bandits is a slick piece of Hollywood storytelling with its stars having a lot of fun together. The odd couple of Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton work great together in their lead roles, playing to their strengths as actors.

Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) are two inmates that escape prison together. The two friends have wildly different personalities. Terry is a neurotic, obsessive planner overly concerned about his health. Joe is the smooth ladies’ man, charming women as he holds them up. The odd pair become bank robbers that hit upon an ingenious system for easy targets. Kidnapping a bank’s manager the night before, they politely steal from the bank before customers arrive. They soon become household names when television reports dub them the Sleepover Bandits.

All is going well for Joe and Terry until they cross paths with Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett). Married to a rich, distant husband, the bored Kate runs away from her marriage after meeting the criminals. Soon she’ll become an inseparable part of their lives. Sparks begin to fly between Kate and the two men, leading to a very tricky love triangle. Will their feelings for Kate eventually get them arrested and more importantly for the two men, dissolve their friendship?

It’s a sweet, tidy package with enjoyable characters.

Bandits is one of those movies with a bit of everything thrown in for good measure. A dash of action, comedy and romance, the three veteran stars have a blast of fun playing off each other. This is a different type of role for Cate Blanchett, flexing her range as a deeply talented actress that has won multiple Oscars. The serious actress lets her hair down as the lively, personable Kate. It is a shame she hasn’t gotten more comedic material to work with in her career. Bandits proves she’s suited almost as well for comedy.

The real heart of Bandits is the back-and-forth between Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton. The abiding friendship between their two characters gives the movie a heartfelt touch. You want to root for Joe and Terry, even as they cross the country robbing banks. It’s a sweet, tidy package with enjoyable characters. The love triangle feels a little forced and is probably drawn out past its welcome. A couple of brief cuts would have made for a much tighter final act.

Bandits won’t change anyone’s world but it’s a sweet, lovable Hollywood movie with three stars at the top of their game.

Movie ★★★★☆

Bandits Blu-ray screen shot 10

Olive Films licenses Bandits from MGM. The 2001 film runs over two hours at 123 minutes, encoded in AVC at decent parameters on a BD-25. It is presented at its intended 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio. This is a fine catalog presentation with solid definition and crisp detail. The transfer shows minor processing in the form of negligible halos and mild filtering. This is a substantial improvement over the original DVD release in terms of film-like authenticity and pop.

The film elements are in pristine condition. Some minor halos and a smidgen of filtering may bother videophiles, but the sharp presentation comes from damage-free film elements with nice definition and excellent clarity. A competent AVC video encode cleanly renders the light grain structure and fine detail without introducing artifacts. The transfer was most certainly first struck in the Blu-ray era. This is not some ancient MGM telecine transfer over a decade old that has been gathering dust. It was clearly was done at 2K resolution by a modern film scanner.

Color saturation is on the vivid side, though flesh-tones remain a neutral pink and healthy. Relatively inky black levels and fine shadow delineation help its contrast. It’s a nice, even presentation with pleasant clarity and sharpness for a catalog title.

Video ★★★★☆

Olive Films includes the original surround mix in a powerful 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. It has a nice kick in the low end with several moments that take full advantage of the LFE channel. An active, discrete surround presence envelops the listener in a few key action scenes, including a memorable opening scene in which a truck escapes prison.

The score is nicely meshed with an excellent array of pop tunes, including artists like Bob Dylan and Five For Fighting. The mix breathes with nice dynamics and allows the fully intelligible dialogue a wide berth. For a comedy, this is a powerful mix.

Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Audio ★★★★☆

Several featurettes are lost on this BD from the original MGM DVD and an audio commentary that was only included overseas in foreign markets is also missing. So keep the DVD.

Bandits Theatrical Trailer (02:27 in HD)

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray.

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