Another day, another bland PG-13 Hollywood remake.
“Miss Bala” is a remake of the 2011 Mexican film, and stars Gina Rodriguez as an American woman who is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel while visiting her friend in Tijuana and forced to help them in order to find her missing friend. Ismael Cruz Córdova, Cristina Rodlo and Anthony Mackie also star as Catherine Hardwicke directs.
All too often, we get these watered-down PG-13 remakes of classic (or at least good) films, and it almost never ends well. Whether it be “RoboCop” or “Total Recall,” Hollywood seems to have this compulsive need to take something that either worked in a foreign language or in a past decade and remake it, except you gotta get that sweet sweet PG-13 money so all the grit, edge or bloody enjoyment gets sacrificed because of it. And that’s not to say PG-13 action films can’t be well-shot or a whole lot of fun or full of violence; look at “Live Free or Die Hard” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” However, coming out in the first few months of the year and getting the trailers we got there was little reason to think “Miss Bala” would buck the trend and naturally it is just another “why is this a thing?” in the ever-growing list.
Gina Rodriquez made her name staring in the comedy show “Jane the Virgin” and has long voiced her desire to play a superhero and see more Hispanic heroes on the big screen, so to her credit this is a step in the right direction. Surely there are many young Hispanic girls who feel they don’t to see someone who looks like them on screen kicking butt and Rodriguez is able to hold her own when forced to hold a gun. Most of the time she is actually holding back tears or fear and trying to put on a brave face, and this is really where her semi-nuanced performance shines, but when she eventually does pick up the gun it doesn’t seem out-of-place.
The problem with the film is basically everything except Rodriquez. Story-wise, we have seen all this before. A person gets taken against their will by a gang or group of bad guys and is forced to work with them, eventually getting close with the leader and then gets in contact with the government and is forced to chose sides. There is nothing truly wrong with familiar, but when the action is itself bland and uninspired, just quick cut and close-up gunplay with no blood, you really begin to wonder why you are even watching.
Set predominately in Mexico, there is so much opportunity for the filmmakers to create a sprawling landscape or contrast of the types of worlds that the characters find themselves in, just see “Sicario.” However the most we usually get is some sun-soaked roads and a few ranch or field shots, not making the scenes themselves feel lived in.
Look, if you even really knew this movie existed, you likely made up your mind already whether or not you would see it. Is “Miss Bala” a truly bad film? No. It’s just uninspired and aside from the (ever so slight) cultural aspect of seeing a Hispanic woman firing a gun and trying to take down a gang on screen, there is nothing new here.
Critic’s Rating: 5/10