For my review of the Mexican original, click the following link: MISS BALA (2011)
No real segue. Saw the trailer, saw the original film, I know a little bit about the real event these movies are based on, and now here we are.
The story looks like it’s about a woman who visits her friend, and gets caught up in a criminal organization, working with the police, all while trying to save her friend.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Gina Rodriguez (SMALLFOOT , FERDINAND , DEEPWATER , and the upcoming SOMEONE SPECIAL ), Anthony Mackie (THE HATE U GIVE , DETROIT , Captain America CIVIL WAR  and WINTER SOLDIER , AVENGERS: ULTRON , and upcoming films THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW  and AGAINST ALL ENEMIES ), Ismael Cruz Cordova (MARY QUEEN  and BILLY LYNN ), Thomas Dekker (TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES [2008 – 2009], HEROES [2006 – 2010], and the upcoming BLUE CALL ), and Aislinn Derbez (HAZLO COMO HOMBRE ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Catherine Hardwicke, known for TWILIGHT (2008) and LORDS OF DOGTOWN (2005). Penning the screenplay is Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Alex Heffes, known for QUEEN OF KATWE (2016). The cinematographer is Patrick Murguia, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Terilyn A. Shropshire, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
So… yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of the original. I thought it was way too confusing and nothing was explained. I know that was the point, but the movie comes across as just messy and making shit up as it went along. I see this movie and I have to say that I am a bit more excited. It looks like it’ll have a lot more action, more sensible characters to get invested in, and just a whole lot better. Personally, I’m pretty stoked.
This is my honest opinion of: MISS BALA
Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez) is a Hollywood make-up artist and is going to visit her friend, Suzu Ramós (Cristina Rodlo), in Mexico, who wants to enter the Miss Baja California beauty pageant. One night going out on the town, Gloria and Suzu go to the Millennium Club to have a good time. However, the club is raided by a cartel group called Los Estrellas, led by Lino Esparza (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Gloria and Suzu are separated, and despite Gloria’s intentions to look for her, she eventually finds herself entangled in a conflict between Los Estrellas and the DEA, and all she wants is to find her friend.
Holy shit… IMDb has it as a 4.1/10 and RottenTomatoes has it at a 32%, both as of 2/1/2019. Well… I guess I’m the odd man out. I actually like this movie. In fact, I’m going a step further. I think this is a superior film to the original. Yeah, I said it, and I ain’t taking it back. With that said… yeah, I can understand why this movie is getting a negative reception.
Let’s start with the natural comparing and contrasting. For starters, Gina Rodriguez is a far superior lead than Stephanie Sigman was. I don’t know if I want to blame the woman exclusively. Perhaps it was the director’s choice to have her completely emotionless as her life is constantly “threatened” by the most non-intimidating drug gang south of the border (actually, now that I’m joking about it, maybe it was more intentional than I thought), but one would think that a beauty queen wouldn’t be so nonchalant about being wrapped up in the business of a cartel. Gloria gives a shit. She’s freaking out, she’s wide-eyed, breathing heavily, confused as to why they make her do random things, like be part of the pageant, which she legitimately didn’t want to do. She never looks like she’s enjoying herself and she does, at least most of the time, continuously ask about Suzu. The original film almost forgets about her completely until the end.
Also, Lino in this movie is far more intimidating than the original. How so? HE THREATENS HER!!! Look, on a personal level, I’d have sooner decked the guy than ever take off his boots like some servant, but that’s because I don’t take assholes seriously who think that a gun is a sign of how in control they are. But I’m not Gloria, and Gloria is an every-woman who probably doesn’t constantly imagine herself in life-threatening situations. Lino exploits that and in a far smarter way than Lino from the original. Consider, Lino never flashed a gun, and never even had a cohort watch over her. Lino did everything right in this one. He has a dude drive behind her to make sure she stays with their little mini caravan, he has someone watch over her when they’re on foot, he just feels like a much smarter character here.
More than anything, I like Gloria’s arc far better than Laura’s. In that… she actually has an arc. She evolves from this scared nobody, to a machinegun toting, red dress clad, bad-ass. The story is a more straight-forward “woman saving worman” kind of flick, and quite frankly, I find that refreshing. Women heroes may not be new, but I find that it’s more often than not, a woman saving a man kind of thing. Very “feminist role reversal” type shit going on. Not that those movies don’t do it well, it’s just not always subtle. Here, at least the feminism isn’t crammed down your throat and you can just appreciate a resourceful woman for being a resourceful woman.
But, I gotta be honest with myself here, this movie isn’t exactly “good”. There are more than a few dumb moments. And before the defenders come up and start spitting venom my way, I’m not referring to <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ the moment when Gloria decides to save Lino’s life, as you can easily explain that away as he was her only source in knowing how to find Suzu, and it’s been made clear that she can’t trust the DEA. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
I am referring to such scenes as Lino teaching Gloria how to use a rifle. It’s around here where his stupidity starts seeping in. I know it’s meant to serve as a means of thinking that he thinks he and Gloria have some kind of romantic connection. Please, bitch, it’s been less than half a week. Knowledge is power, and distribution of power is a dangerous gamble. I doubt Isabel (Aislinn Derbez) was given that kind of training from a man who regularly got laid by her (albeit, likely by force) for probably a lot longer than Gloria has been here. That’s a level of arrogance that I don’t think works for a character like Lino. I mean, I get why she doesn’t pull the trigger because she’d have a legion of blood-thirsty dick-munches that would hunt her down until they were all growing grey hair in awkward areas, but the idea that she wouldn’t utilize this dollar-tree worth of training at some point is pretty dumb.
There’s also that bit where she’s told to take a bunch of drugs to their partners in San Diego, led by Jimmy (Anthony Mackie). This is the only time when Gloria doesn’t have a dude following her and is left completely with her own devices. Why she doesn’t turn a corner and go to a police station, or pull in to a gas station and tell an employee to call the police on her, is a little beyond me. There were ways out of this and they weren’t explored.
Why did we dedicate a scene of showing Lino as a family man? What the hell was the point of this? To try and humanize him? Um… excuse you, movie, but you acknowledge that Lino has been threatening Gloria to take off his boots and to strip down to underwear? By doing that, you made him irredeemable. He doesn’t deserve to be humanized. He needs to be seen as the scummy monster that he is. Pretty tasteless moment.
And I have to ask why this movie is sequel baiting. I mean, this isn’t simply based on a Mexican movie, it’s based on true events. I mean, okay, even that movie took its liberties, but it was intended to tell the story of Laura Zuñiga, and that was it. If any sequel were to come of it, it would be the possible scrutiny of being labeled as a member of the cartel and rough road it took to get her eventual comeback as a model. Not build a make-believe franchise where she becomes a CIA operative. Not that I’ll complain if it happens, but… doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I suppose I won’t count this as a negative or anything, as anyone can argue that this movie isn’t “technically” about Laura Zuñiga, but it does feel like a cynical and desperate reach for a franchise for a movie that doesn’t quite deserve it. I buy that Rodriguez can be an action star, but… not this story.
Overall, I think this movie isn’t great. It’s got more than its fair share of recycled plot-holes that the original film suffered from and some pretty awful writing in terms of how certain characters are portrayed, which does cripple the movie. With that said, Rodriguez can certainly carry the film, and for all its faults, it’s still easier to watch than the original. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but it’s true. As a recommendation, however, I might say this is a skip. Rental at best, but definitely not worth seeing in theaters.
My honest rating for MISS BALA: 3/5
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