Cast includes: Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense), Billy Bob Thornton (Pushing Tin), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
Director: Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog)
Genre: Comedy (2001)
In brief: “Part Bonnie & Clyde, part Barnum & Bailey,” that’s how our bandits are described on Criminals at Large, a local true-crime program. When the film opens, we see the duo in a bank robbery standoff with the L.A. police. Terry and Joe are having one last gripe session about all the dumb things the other has done to bring them to a showdown at the Alamo Bank… with Criminals at Large broadcasting from outside. It’s a high-profile crime spree, that coming to a tragic end.
But lets back up… An impromptu escape from the Oregon State Prison links this odd couple. Terry is a world-class hypochondriac who constantly has symptoms… “I don’t care what the doctors say.” Joe, on the other hand, is “an action figure,” who takes his opportunities as he finds them. When a cement mixer shows up at the prison, Joe sees an opportunity for an easy prison break. Terry comes along because he wasn’t finished ranting about Joe’s “anger management issues.” Finding themselves on the outside with no money, wearing clothes that say “inmate,” they decided to take advantage of some local hospitality. Quite by chance, they hatch their unique brand of bank robberies… "no guards, no tellers, no customers." They spend the night at the bank manger’s home, escort him/her to the bank in the morning to open the safe. Add in Joe’s wannabe-stuntman cousin as the wheelman, and the “sleepover bandits” gang is complete.
Well, not quite complete… We first catch up with Kate in her kitchen, whipping up a romantic gourmet dinner while wildly dancing and singing to “I need a Hero.” The song asks, “Where have all the good men gone?” Well, Kate is certainly not married to one. Once again, he's made other plans. “Once upon a time she was falling in love, but now she’s only falling apart.” Fleeing her home and marriage, singing Total Eclipse of the Heart on high volume, Kate runs into Terry… literally. Horrified, Kate tries to rush Terry to the hospital. When Terry demands that she pull over, she won’t. When he says he’s going to shoot her, she shouts, “Oh go ahead! It’ll be an improvement! Believe me!” One thing leads to another, and Kate becomes the 4th member of the gang.
If the chemistry seemed wacky before, the addition of Kate brings wacky chemistry to the level of high art. Terry, the hypochondriac, lives by the Merck Manuel. Kate lives by the words of popular songs. Joe gets by on his charm. Charm is one thing this movie has a lot of… in addition to an excellent script and terrific acting. Some scenes are so perfectly crafted that you’ll chuckle long after they’ve moved on. This is a film I can see again and again because of the performances. One scene in particular… Kate singing in the kitchen when we first meet her… is worth the ticket price.
4 popped kernels
Popped kernels for the really fun story, excellent script, excellent acting, and the singing scene in the kitchen is worth a popped kernel, all on its own.