Rob Reviews "Miss Bala"
You know that thing when you see a movie or series of movies that take place in the same area of the world and you think to yourself, “I really like the look of this, and these stories make me want to visit this place very much”? With films like “Sicario,” “Gringo,” and now “Miss Bala,” there is NO way I want to go to Mexico anytime soon for any reason.
“Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez stars in this latest film from “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke as Gloria, a makeup artist living in Los Angeles who goes back to her childhood neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico to meet up with her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) with her entry in the Miss Baja California beauty pageant. When a shooting at a local club separates them, Gloria gets mixed up with a local cartel in exchange for their help to find Suzu.
This film is actually a remake of a 2011 film from Mexico of the same name, and actually runs about the same length of time. After watching this version, I am interested to go back and watch the original to compare and contrast. As much as I did enjoy this film, I felt that it was very front-heavy. As much as the intensity is cranked up to eleven (accompanied by a score by veteran composer Alex Heffes) in a story that takes more than its share of twists and turns, there is way too much setup that leads to an ending that is severely rushed. I understand that it is important to be invested in the lives and journey of the main characters including Ismael Cruz Cordova’s Lino as the leader of the cartel whose intentions are ambiguous at best up until its reveal in the third act, but there is so much put into it and some other throwaway characters in the first two thirds of “Miss Bala” that the impact of its finale is like a firecracker the size of a Buick that pops like the cap on a cap gun. And this is solely in the hands of the screenwriters more than the cast itself, even though there is a level of over-the-top to the acting that is what I expected out of a film of its type. Not to the point of telenovela, but more in the vein of “El Mariachi” on a bigger scale. Anthony Mackie even makes an appearance, but to put his name in the opening credits for any other reason than to catch the eye of the casual moviegoer to persuade them to check this film out will make the audience feel short changed. (Honestly, I saw this about fifteen hours before I wrote this review, and if I had not seen it on IMDb, I would have forgotten that he was in it.)
“Miss Bala” is not a bad film in any way, but it also becomes one of those stories that we have seen before that flirts with stereotyping without crossing that line. On the upside of this, I am just glad this was not a Jennifer Lopez vehicle, as this would be the kind of role that she would glom onto if she had the chance.