Wednesday, May 12, 2010

recommendation: "Bandidas" (2006 movie)

I love westerns; I love silly westerns. I also love sexy westerns, which means I knew I'd love Bandidas before I'd done more than hear about it. It's a girl-buddy-western-comedy starring the gorgeous and talented Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz, both of whom I've been head over heels in love with for ages (Penelope's hair... dreamy sigh). Hayek and Cruz are best friends who'd long wanted to work on a movie together, but never had the right opportunity, so they made this one themselves.

And it's badass. Maria (Cruz) is a poor girl who's lived on her father's farm her whole life; Sara (Hayek) is a posh girl who's been educated in Europe and has only just returned to (vaguely late 1800s) Mexico. Shady New York bankers are moving in (things never change) and attempting to steal everybody's land and gold. Sara's father is murdered, and Maria's is nearly so, and the two become outlaws to avenge their families and save their country.

Both characters totally shine as their relationship grows from a cat-fightin'-bitch-slappin'-in-the-middle-of-church-sorry-Father beginning into a close trust-you-with-my-life friendship. The first token Man, Maria and Sara's weatherbeaten mentor, rides off into the sunset instead of hovering protectively, leaving the pair to kick ass on their own terms. The second Man, Quentin (Steve Zahn), is a bumbling yet endearing fool who's never particularly necessary to the action.

Maria and Sara are neither impossibly-tough-as-nails heartless female killing machines nor idealistic-and-incompetent fluttery chicks; they're just two strong-yet-flawed women on a mission, whether that mission is looting and/or blowing up banks or practicing their kissing techniques on hapless Quentin.

Sure, there's a few scenes of heaving cleavage in which a baffled Quentin clearly stands in for your stereotypical male viewer and his fantasies, but Cruz and Hayek are well aware of the game they're playing, and in those scenes I* found the focus remained on Sara and Maria, with Quentin merely their prop. This is a movie about female friendship (and tearing around on horses with guns) and neither the females nor the friendship are ultimately compromised.**

The camaraderie (stop obsessing over your hair!), hijinks (ice-skating across the alarmed floor of a vault!), and action (slo-mo gun- and knife-fight on a train!) are all fantastic, the costumes (corsets! chaps! bandanas!) are heart-attack beautiful (hello! my ideal wardrobe), and I absolutely adore the brand of crazy slapstick but heartfelt humour. In sum: Bandidas is my new favourite movie.***

* Girl who has studied far too much gender theory.
** Nor is the SMOKIN' HOTNESS ever compromised. Let me be clear about that, because it is of equal importance. (You can't be deep if you don't also have shallows. I fully own this. Sexy is fucking+ important.)
*** There are very few things in this world that are so perfectly tailored to my tastes; naturally, you may hate it. But I am no reviewer. I recommend. And this! This I highly recommend.
+ Intended.

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