Is it 2019 or 2002?
Synopsis: Gloria finds a power she never knew she had when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime. Surviving will require all of her cunning, inventiveness, and strength. (Sony Pictures)
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Ismael Cruz Córdova, and Anthony Mackie
Writer: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 104mins
If you’ve seen any of the trailer for Miss Bala (and how couldn’t have you had?), you’ve pretty much seen it but it is much more ridiculous that the trailers depicted. Based on the 2011 Mexican film of the same name (which I haven’t seen), this new version takes a generic post-2000s action film, gives it a female lead, and takes several nonsensical turns along the way. What connects these nonsensical turns can only be described as dull, empty, and a chore to watch. It shouldn’t come as a surprise how predictable it all is, devoiding it of any suspense or tension whatsoever.
For those who haven’t seen any of the trailers, the story is about a woman named Gloria Fuentes (Rodriguez) who would find herself embedded with a Mexican cartel, led by Lino Esparza (Córdova), in a search to find her missing friend. Gloria’s new surroundings would prove to be dangerous so she would inevitably have to find the strength to overcome this adversity and find her missing friend. The predictability and derivative nature of this trajectory made it incredibly dull to watch as Gloria would be presented with a series of non-threats as the main plot seemingly went nowhere.
Over time, it felt like the film forgot more and more what the main plot was as it chose to throw in some nonsensical twists (each more nonsensical than the last) and superfluous plot threads that only helped to change the tone a few times along the way, making the plot convoluted and harder to follow. The film is being marketed as an action film and it occasionally was but this only represented a small part of it. The majority of the film was this dull thriller that went nowhere as it tried to force down our throats a romantic angle between Gloria and Lino that simply didn’t work in terms of the plot as it only undermined the supposed sense of danger that it tried to perpetuate and simply because they lacked chemistry.
Again, this was an action film at times and whenever it was, albeit not nearly as often as it should have, it was far too generic and erratically edited for the most part. Of course it was all building up to the moment shown in the trailers but by then, it was hard to care about Gloria let alone any of the other characters because of lazy and contrived writing. Her story more or less got lost within everything else that was going on. The story would also try to redeem Lino before later undercutting all the work it had done. Ultimately, it’s only goal appeared to be establishing an action franchise that may never happen.
Despite the subpar story and mediocre dialog, the acting was okay across the board. Rodriguez as Gloria was compelling enough to watch but she just couldn’t quite carry the emotional weight of the role. One of the final shots near the end of the film where she holds a rifle may be cool (it may not be the last time we get to see this) but it never felt earned. Córdova as Lino was more on the wooden side while playing the role of the generic cartel guy. The film tried to force he and Rodriguez together, however, they simply lacked the chemistry to make this believable.
Overall, Miss Bala is a derivative, dated, predictable, dull, and utterly ridiculous mess of action/thriller, if you can even call it that as its few moments of action along with its tension-less and suspense-less story full of confusing tonal shifts fueled by lazy and contrived writing will make your head spin. The pieces were there but the film could never put them together in a satisfying way. Gina Rodriguez deserves better than this subpar offering.