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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/24/00

1997 (2000) - Columbia TriStar

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Bandits Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/B+

Specs and Features

110 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for Bandits, Run Lola Run, Spice World and Still Crazy, music videos for Puppet and Catch Me by the Bandits, commentary by director Katja Von Garnier, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: German (DD 5.1 and DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"They always wanted to be famous ... they never knew they'd be wanted!"

What we have here, is what we call MTV-style editing. It involves non-traditional, often mobile, camera angles with fast cutting and exaggerated, decidedly unnatural colors. In music videos, it works. In films, it sometimes works. The problem is not in the style itself, but in the fact that some directors seem hell-bent on using it for its own sake. Directors like Spike Jonze know how to use the style effectively. But others, they just have no clue.

So here is the newest entry into that genre: Bandits, the 1997 German import. The film follows the exploits of a four-girl rock band. This particular band just happens to be in prison, but following a convenient escape, they become a famous fugitive group with soaring record sales and the police on their tail. There's nothing like getting a high profile just as you're attempting to elude the police. Sounds interesting, but is it a good movie? Well, sort of.

The problem lies in two things. First, we have an absolutely ludicrous series of events. To start with, the girls are taken to a police ball to play a few songs. OK, sure... that's plausible enough. They escape. We're good so far. So now, all they have to do is lay low for a few days until their boat sails, taking them to freedom. What do the girls do? They choose to play impromptu gigs in a local bar (thus drawing the attention of police). They sign autographs for adoring fans in the middle of a traffic jam (thus drawing the attention of police). And then they run up a mile-high hotel bill complete with traceable long-distance phone calls (thus drawing the attention of police). Do you see a trend developing here? What's worse, is that these attention-getting stunts make little sense and serve only to set up those mini-music videos, where the MTV-style editing can go crazy.

That's the second problem. The editing went absolutely gonzo! Overall, the cinematography and editing are well done, but then the movie feels the need to dive into self-indulgence with hyper-choreographed sex scenes and insane musical performances from a band that is supposed to be on the run. Does it work? Somewhat, but it's also horribly self-serving. There is very little reason for these types of scenes to even be in the movie. A more appropriate example of MTV-style editing can be found in another German export Run Lola Run.

On the flip side (i.e. video, audio, extras) the disc is good. The video quality is solid in anamorphic widescreen, with only light grain and hardly any artifacting. And the disc's sound is very good. You're treated to the German language track (in both 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital) as well as an English commentary track with the director. There is no pure English language track, so if you don't like subtitles, I'd suggest you learn German. The sound field is encompassing on the 5.1 track and is just OK on the 2.0 mix. Spatial effects are evident, which is all you can ask for considering the source material.

This disc is also nicely adorned with supplements. There are four different trailers, for this film as well as Run Lola Run, Spice World and Still Crazy. There are also two music videos from the movie's namesake band. But the director's commentary is still the best feature. Katja von Garnier is insightful, without ever making this commentary extraordinary. She does her job, and that is to give us little morsels of behind-the-scenes knowledge here and there, all the while enhancing the enjoyment of the movie.

Bandits was a big hit in Europe, and now it's here in Region 1 in grand style. However, the film still suffers from periodic bouts of self-indulgent editing and completely illogical plot sequences. Still, the acting and character interplay is top-notch and this film is definitely worth having, if for no other reason than to broaden your film horizons.

Brad Pilcher
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