Barry Levinson’s Bandits is a film that I really enjoyed when I first saw it in theaters back in 2001 and it seems to be playing a lot of late on the HD movie channels. And every time I come across it, I can’t help but check it out, because it’s always insantly entertaining. It’s fun. It’s witty. It’s VERY clever. It’s got a great sense of casual style which was captured by the great cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton were a terrific team with lots of chemistry, and Cate Blanchett has rarely been more sexy and fun and loose in a role. The ending is magnificent, to be honest – it’s a great twist that makes sense and that you never see coming, even if it’s been hinted at previously in the twisty narrative. Bank robber movies have been done to death, but there’s something unique about this mostly unsung effort that’s sort of hard to exactly pinpoint. I can remember laughing out loud in the theater over the ingenuity and the unexpected nature of the final moments. Harley Peyton’s perfectly calibrated screenplay knew when to be funny, knew when to be serious, knew when to be romantic, and knew how to pile on the incident and action, showing a total mastery of tone and really treasuring the element of surprise. Levinson’s career has been all over the place, with lots of great films, a few total duds, and dependably solid work in between; this is easily one of his most underrated efforts.

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