Director Barry Levinson's eclectic film career has always been distinguished by quality scriptwriting, and Bandits
is no exception, thanks to Harley Peyton's clever contribution. At the heart of the story is the onscreen chemistry between Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, who, as the most successful bank robbers in US history, win the affections of the nation. The story is told via various flashback methods, such as the narration of a newscaster who gets an exclusive interview, while a framing device teases the audience with what the end will be at the start. But all is not as it seems. The impulsive hothead Willis falls easily for fiery redhead and frustrated housewife Cate Blanchett. The attraction is perfectly mutual until she realises the sweet appeal of hypochondriac Thornton. The resulting love triangle may not immediately seem to add up, especially as the romantic focus really ought to be on Willis' goofy cousin Harvey (a sensational Troy Garity) who dreams of being a stuntman. Originally Bandits
was meant to be an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel
, but here the tone is significantly lightened and the "Sleepover Bandits" are far more sympathetic characters than the likes of George Clooney's thief in Out of Sight
. There's a kicker of a feel-good finale, too.
On the DVD: Bandits on disc has an alternative and even sweeter ending, complete with commentary from Blanchett entitled "Who's the Dad?". It's one of five deleted scenes that were presumably only cut for running time. Other extras include a "Script to Screen" workshop with Levinson, an ad for the soundtrack album and a 20-minute documentary. The real find, though, is a commentary from Willis, Thornton, Blanchett, Garity, Producer Paula Weinstein and Peyton. They may not all be in the same room, but the apportioning of anecdotes fits perfectly.--Paul Tonks