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Levinson comedy follows three quirky 'Bandits' on a robbery spree

Friday, October 12, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Joe is the impulsive loner with rage issues, and Terry is a hypochondriac. So far, that describes me. But I'm not a bank robber, and they are.


RATING: PG-13 for some sexual content, language and violence

STARRING: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson

WEB STIE: www.mgm.com/bandits/



Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton play these "Bandits" -- specifically, the infamous Sleepover Bandits -- in Barry Levinson's quirky new comedy.

What distinguishes sleepover bandits from the garden variety is their novel M.O.: Rather than go to the messy trouble of commandeering the place or breaking in and safecracking after hours, they simply visit the bank manager at home around dinner time the night before the heist, spend a pleasant evening holding him and his family hostage, stay over, and accompany him to work the next morning with his felicitous keys and combinations.

What further distinguishes the duo's robbery spree through small-town Oregon and California is the acquisition of an adoring public following plus an unsolicited moll, Cate Blanchett -- the bipolar housewife who joins their operation after a traffic accident, for want of an attentive husband or anything better to do.

How long will it take for one of the guys to fall in love with her? Answers: Not long, and both. The two Clydes will be arguing about their Bonnie all the way to the climactic finish.

Those ongoing arguments in writer Harley Peyton's script provide the film's high points as well as its farcical flaws: funny much of the time but labored after a while, detracting from the neo-realism of the piece. The offbeat, committed performances of macho Willis and phobic Thornton, however, enable Levinson to pull it off. That six-time Oscar-nominated director, you may recall, has given us such fine hits as "Diner," "Rain Man," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Wag the Dog."

Blanchett's part is the toughest in terms of credibility, but she does her best. Doing better is Troy Garity as Joe's stuntman cousin and getaway driver Harvey J. Pollard -- a sly little in-joke nod to the immortal C.W. Moss played by Michael J. Pollard in "Bonnie and Clyde." There's also a sly little nod to (and theft from) the bedroom blanket scene between Gable and Colbert in "It Happened One Night."

Actually, there are a few too many sly little nods in "Bandits," which at two hours and three minutes, is a bit on the long and precious side. But it's a gentle, enjoyable romp -- with a terrific ending!

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