REVIEW: Miss Bala
In an era of female empowerment, Hollywood is looking far and wide in an attempt to create role models and franchises for proper exploitation. The most recent non-super-powered entry in this field is Miss Bala, a remake of the 2011 Mexican film of the same name, starring CW darling Gina Rodriguez.
We take a makeup artist everywoman and watch her routine, not entirely satisfying life get upended by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Along the way, she is terrified, betrayed, seduced, and ultimately woke. She goes from patsy to taking control of her destiny, finding the strength to do things she couldn’t imagine weeks earlier.
The problem with the film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is that we don’t develop Gloria Fuentes as a character to care about beyond a few perfunctory scenes before things go sideways. When she and a girlfriend, Suzu (Cristina Rodlo), are at a nightclub, it happens to be the night members of the “Las Estrellas” gang attacks. Suzu goes missing and Gloria, who admits seeing the attackers’ faces, winds up in the hands of a corrupt police officer who turns her over to Lino (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
She s briefly in the hands of the DEA, using a civilian as a pawn to entrap Lino, but when things go wrong, disavow her, forcing Gloria to side with her captor. There’s a touch of Stockholm syndrome at work, a hint of sexual desire between Lino and Gloria, and a whole lot of things going boom.
Gloria, Lino, and all the other characters in this story are bland, boring, and two-dimensional. Any attempt to add complexity to the players falls flat. We should be rooting for Gloria to overcome her circumstances and come out on top, but we don’t believe the steps in the paint-by-numbers script from Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer. Hardwicke can get good performances from her cast as witnessed by Thirteen and even Twilight, but seems more intent on the action pieces than the characters.
Rodriguez is clearly a talented, appealing actress and it’s good to see her stretch beyond Jane the Virgin but was ill-served here.
The film is out from Sony Home Entertainment in a handful of formats. The standard DVD was reviewed and looks and sounds fine, although I’ve come to miss the sharper definition of the superior formats.
The DVD contains the usual assortment of special features including Audio Commentary from Hardwicke, Producer Jamie Marshall, and Associate Producer Shayda Frost. Then we get into the more perfunctory pieces including Gina: The Strength of a Woman (4:03), The Bigger the Bang (7:31), Making of Miss Bala (7:05), Wardrobe Tests with Commentary by Director Catherine Hardwicke (7:30), Action Rehearsal with Commentary by Director Catherine Hardwicke (4:59), Deleted & Extended Scenes (7:31).