In commemoration of the upcoming American remake, MISS BALA (2019), I’m going to take a look at the original film.
So, apparently, this movie has a bit of a history to it. The movie is loosely based on Laura Zúñiga, a Mexican model and beauty queen, who was at the center of a huge scandal. She was arrested under the belief that she (and seven other men) was carrying some 50,000 American dollars and a whole lot of firearms. She also claimed that she was kidnapped by her boyfriend, who was a high-ranking dick-slice in the Juárez Cartel, and was basically innocent, but was arrested anyway. Granted, only for forty days and was released because the judge didn’t find anything that proved that she was directly involved with the crap that she was charged with. Her title as Miss Mexico International 2009 was stripped from her, but did quietly end up finding work as a model again in 2010. To my understanding, the movie keeps only a few details accurate, but for the most part is greatly exaggerated.
Cast: Stephanie Sigman (ANNABELLE: CREATION  and SPECTRE ), Lakshmi Picazo (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Noé Hernández (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Miguel Couturier (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Director/Co-Writer: Gerardo Naranjo (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Co-Writer: Mauricio Katz (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Producers: actors Gael García Bernal (DESIERTO ) and Diego Luna (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Composer: Emilio Kauderer (SECRET/EYES )
Cinematographer: Mátyás Erdély (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Editor: Gerardo Naranjo (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
This is my honest opinion of: MISS BALA
Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) and her best friend Azucena “Suzu” (Lakshmi Picazo) are about to enter the Miss Baja California beauty pageant and are both accepted. However, they go out for a night on the town and end up at the Millennium Nightclub, which gets terrorized by a group of armed men from the La Estrella gang. Though Laura survives the attack, Suzu goes missing. She attempts to enlist a police officer for help, but soon discovers that he’s a corrupt cop who turns her into the Estrella gang, specifically their leader, Lino (Noé Hernández), and becomes entangled into doing their dirty work by smuggling money across the border and seducing prominent military figures.
I never thought I’d ever say this, but I can’t wait for the American remake because this movie is so boring.
I feel a little guilty for saying it, as I do know what this movie was going for. It was supposed to be more about the drug cartel and how many people they’ve killed. I’ve also read that the director didn’t want to “dive into the minds” of the bad guys, likely not to give them the time of day to appear like human beings. With that said, it doesn’t do a good job with any of its good intentions. If the intention was to portray them as monsters, the movie fails at that because they don’t do anything particularly monstrous. I mean, okay, they shoot up a nightclub and civilians and police officers die. While that’s a tragedy in real life, that’s sort of standard in a movie. And even monsters have some kind of personality to them. At least some level of intimidation. But that never happens. In fact, there’s entire scenes dedicated to Lino just hanging out with Laura. Jeez, throw in a pizza and some Sprite and I would have believed that this movie was screwing with me.
That’s actually the biggest problem with the movie. Nothing makes the slightest bit of sense. At first, I was perfectly fine with the story. Laura and Suzu are off to enter the pageant, they get in, they go clubbing, the Estrella gang shows up, shots fired, and Laura tries to get a cop to help her out, turns out to be corrupt, hands her over to Lino… and then the movie starts falling apart. She’s given keys to one of the cars and is told to drive with them and park it somewhere for the police. Okay, first thing that’s going through my mind is, a bomb. Sweet. Some action. But nope, that’s not the case. Actually, that’s exactly the case, but we don’t see that bomb go off. We just have to be told it happens. Excitement? What’s that? Also, she never even tries to escape with the car she’s driving. Seriously, she’s left alone in the car, no one’s driving behind her, only in front of her, and just complies willy-nilly. Then even more bizarre shit starts happening. Like, Lino has his men threaten the head of the pageant and forces her to accept both Laura and her friend in when they didn’t show up for rehearsal because of, you know, the shootout. Lino gives her money for a nice dress and everything. Um… question! Why does the drug cartel give a shit about the pageant? Is it a bribe because Lino thinks this is Laura’s life-long dream, or something? I legit don’t get it. Maybe because they know that the winner of the pageant will have clout to meet military generals and he has stuff that the cartel wants? How would they know that? Do the drug cartels just arbitrarily check what connections certain beauty pageants have?
I think I get what the movie was going for. It’s supposed to be about a young woman caught up in a situation and hasn’t the slightest idea of what’s going on and the motivations of her captors are completely unknown to her. Because she has no idea of what’s going on, we the audience have no idea what’s going on. This would be made stronger if there was an actual sense of danger, which there never seems to be. No gun is ever held up to her head, the bad guys never shout and curse at her, nothing like that. Even Laura is constantly playing a game of fear-pong, bouncing between being scared and not scared, mostly spending time in the “not scared” portion of reacting. Hell, one would think that a survivor of a shootout would be a little traumatized from the experience. Wide eyes, heavy breathing from panicking, lashing out at anyone trying to touch her comfortingly, not still worrying about being in a beauty pageant… let me say that again, NOT worrying about the beauty pageant. Yeah, you’re reading my sarcasm right. Laura is still worried about it and is bummed when she’s kicked out of it. Even after Lino has threatened the head of the pageant into letting her reenter and handed money for a new dress, she looks like she’s having fun trying them on. No, seriously, no mental breakdowns?! No quiet corners to scream in?! Not even a little chihuahua fear-trembling? Her reactions to her predicaments are on par with Alice from Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Completely devoid of emotion.
Hell, even the shock-value later on comes out of f**king nowhere. Lino rapes Laura. But the scene is so dumb. Like, it’s just the two of them in the middle of nowhere, no henchmen standing guard, Lino is likely not well-armed, and she doesn’t give even the slightest bit of resistance. Not even an insult. He just says, “take off your clothes” and she complies. And when I say “it comes out of nowhere,” I really mean that. There’s no lead in to this. Sure, Lino’s groped her prior to this point. Once. Invaded her home and has been alone with her in her own bedroom with her father and brother in another room, and barely even looks at her when she’s changing clothes. Throughout this movie, Lino has ranged from bland to perverted, but not to this scale. He’s not scary, intimidating, he’s a guy that I feel like even a beauty queen could kick in the balls and gain the upper hand. Or the stringing up of the body of a DEA agent? Being whored out to the General? I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but the movie has, up to this point, been pretty droll and uninteresting. There is no proper build-up to this shit, so in this movie about a kidnapped woman doing the drug cartel’s bidding, the more intense scenes don’t work.
If it wasn’t bad enough, where the movie just throws random scene after random scene at you, almost as if the filmmakers were making things up as they went, the movie doesn’t really end. It just stops. Let me explain, Laura is brought forth before the press, making this the one incredibly faithful moment to the real life events of Zúñiga, the movie literally ends with Laura being brought to an undisclosed location, and then cut to black. That’s it. That barely constitutes as an ending. It’s more like the movie just stops. We don’t know if her dad and brother are okay, nothing.
This movie was called “provocative.” Well… it certainly provoked a whole lot of boredom, confusion, and frustration. I respect the ideas that went into the movie, but the execution was beyond substandard. The protagonist is boring, the villains aren’t threatening, character choices make zero sense, and the movie never feels like it flows properly. Personally, I didn’t agree with this movie in the slightest. As a recommendation, I think it’s a pass. Maybe not a hard one, but I can’t imagine anyone getting anything out of it. Watch the Sicario movies instead.
My honest rating for MISS BALA: 2/5