Bandits (2001)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Bruce willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchet
Extras: Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer

"Incredibly witty and funny!" is how I would describe "Bandits" in only a few words. The film has far exceeded my expectations and made me chuckle all the way through as Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchet bumble and fumble their way through this expert crime-caper action comedy. MGM Home Entertainment has prepared a Special Edition DVD for this film that sadly didn’t quite live up to its potential at the box office. Reason enough to take a closer look at this disc.

It is the story of two prison escapees (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) who become bank robbers. On their spree they never use violence, but show a gentlemanly charm with their victims and always get what they want before anyone even knows they were robbing the bank. Soon they are called the "Sleepover Bandits, " a result of their tactics of visiting the bank managers at home the night before the robbery to put them under house arrest and casually walk to the safe the next morning, and gain national notoriety.
Everything goes well until as a result of a car accident one of them brings along a woman (Cate Blanchet). Emotions fly high as both fall in love with the same woman and don’t know how to deal with their emotions or each other for that matter. It begins to affect their work and slowly the police is closing in on them. How long will they be able to keep up their act before they get caught?

"Bandits" is full of great moments, ranging from funny to thoughtful, emotional and touching. The masterful script and the perfect casting make "bandits" quite an experience. Bruce Willis is perfect as Joe and plays the character as we’d expect him to be. A bit heated, hard on the outside but with a soft core, always prepared and with a comeback line ready. It is Bruce Willis the way we love him. However, it is ultimately Billy Bob Thornton who steals the show as Terry, the incredibly intelligent but fumbling hypochondriac. In every scene of the movie he is fully convinced to have caught yet another debilitating disease and acts accordingly. Narcoleptic in one scene, allergic in another, constantly spitting out his wits as they go along, and always a bit timid, Terry is the heart of the film. The late-night scene in the bar towards the film’s end is a piece you won’t forget so quickly. The cast is rounded out by Cate Blanchet, who gives a solid performance as their love interest and companion, oftentimes shrieking, crying, and emoting at the same time.

"Bandits" is one of the few examples where everything just falls in place. A great script, great actors, an inventive story with a good number of twists, perfect pacing and a capable director – Barry Levinson in this case – who knows how to put it all together.

Presented as a DVD-18, MGM Home Entertainment has included a 2.35:1 <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> version of the movie on this disc, as well as a <$PS,fullscreen> version. Both are extremely good and highly detailed. The <$PS,widescreen> image restores the movie’s original aspect ratio and brings out the best of the great cinematography of the production. Colors are vibrant and solid, lending a very natural look to the film with natural fleshtones and vivid hues. Blacks are deep and solid, never breaking up, firmly rooting the image, while the highlights are always well-reproduced without ever being overexposed. It is a flawless transfer that is beautiful to behold.

The disc also contains a very aggressive <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix in English, together with <$DS,Dolby surround> track in French, Spanish and Portuguese. The mix is making very efficient and almost constant use of the surround channels, sometimes to create a subtle outdoor ambiance, at others to let the action fly through the room. Frequency response is wide with a great bass extension for solid booms and clear, undistorted high ends.

This Special Edition also contains a few extras, which are definitely worth checking out. First up is an alternate ending to the movie, which varies from the original ending only in a subtle detail, but also a number of deleted scenes, which are great to watch, especially if, like me, you just can’t get enough of the film and need another fix. A "Making Of" Featurette as well as a featurette on "Creating Scene 71" – which is the bedroom scene with Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchet – is also included. Both offer interesting insight into the production with a glimpse behind the scenes and interviews with the principal cast.

"Bandits" is a phenomenally funny film, despite its actual dark theme, and it comes with an ending that is as dramatic as it may be surprising. The glorification of crime sprees may be a bit dubious, but then again, in a way it is part of Hollywood. The gentleman bank robbers are a great constellation in the act, as well as their performance, and you will have a great time watching this film, so make sure to put it down on your shopping list! This is a movie you can’t afford to miss.