La Bala, the bullet; settles everything. This line being delivered by the narrator from Gina Rodriguez’s CW show “Jane the Virgin.” Would easily have made this movie at least 3x better.
The Gina Rodriguez lead action vehicle “Miss Bala” follows the story of Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) who finds power she never knew she had (well not really) when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime. Surviving will require all her cunning (if you say so), inventiveness (if you want to call hiding a sim card in your bra), and strength (ok). Based on the Spanish language film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke of “Twilight’ fame and written by a 1st time feature writer unfortunately misses the target.
Bad bullet pun aside, I was excited to finally take my wife out on a much-needed date night. I didn’t have much expectations leading up to my showtime except to have a good time with the misses and see Gina; who were big fans of take another step into positive movie-star momentum.
So, Gloria who is an aspiring fashion designer which is a really under developed plot line takes a mini vacay to Tijuana to visit an old family friend. The movie moves well at the beginning and gets to the point in a well-paced action scene riddled with bullets and disorientation at a popular night club infested with crooked Mexican officials, gangs, and pretty women. You know like it is in every other Mexico border drama.
The trailers depict a fast paced, gritty, sultry, Gloria pitted between a Mexican Gang and the DEA seemingly playing both sides to get her friend back after they were both abducted. It’s a pretty straight forward plot that based on the marketing led me to believe I was getting a sexier “Taken”, but what I got was a less gritty “Sicario” but the “Twilight Version.” Now I didn’t think the 1st Twilight film was that bad. It’s apparent that Catherine Hardwicke hasn’t grown much as a director since then and didn’t do anything particularly spectacular with this material.
Despite that, the camera loves Gina. All the charisma and appeal that she displays on her tv show is exactly what you’re going to get in this movie. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is for you to decide.
Gina as Gloria really shines with her performance as she internalizes a lot of the emotional weight of her situation very well. She doesn’t have much time to process let alone react to all the different ways she is being pushed. She’s abducted and then immediately sent off to do a job by the Mexican gang known in the movie as Los Estrellas led by a handsome bad guy Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Their chemistry works. His character goals on the other hand, not so much. That must be blamed solely on the script. Equally charismatic and displaying some sexy Puerto Rican green eyes, that may be worth the price of the movie ticket there. There’s an eerie relationship that forms in the movie as Lino really is romantic in his villainy and his behavior that is expressed towards Gloria. He’s not overtly violent toward her but does sexually objectify her.
The trailers would lead you to believe Gloria’s duplicitous nature would be what informs you to believe this is what she must use to get out of a bad situation, but that’s not what happens here. Marketed as a hero, throughout the whole movie Gloria is a victim and doesn’t strike you as a Liam Neeson ready to use a particular set of skills to subvert the new Taken-Style action drama with Latina flare.
With that in mind what was executed on screen was an average portrayal of abduction and unfairness when dealing with crooked entities on both sides of the border.
Hardwicke attempted play around with the debate of this relationship between the U.S and Mexico but never goes all the way leaving some meat on the bone, especially with the times were in now which was a missed opportunity to explore.
So, were back to the central story and our character not having any say in her situation and not being able to do much to affect her situation till the final act of the movie. The trailer had a gun in Gloria’s hand looking sexy and using her wits to change her circumstances. That couldn’t be farther from the reality of what’s depicted that you feel mislead and not fulfilled for what’s coming next.
That great pace in the 1st act went by the waist side and left the middle of the movie feeling slow, not action packed, and screaming out for something more. Unfortunately, my idea of more was quite different than what was delivered in the 3rd act where the movie jumped the shark in an unbelievable way it just ruined all the potential this film had. We needed more jobs, more trickery on Gloria’s behalf, more pressure from the DEA pressed upon Gloria. A lot of missed opportunities to do more leaves you feeling meh.
Yeah that’s it. Meh. “Meh Bala”
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 6/10
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Anthony Mackie
Run Time: 104 mins