MISS BALA (“Miss Bullet”), directed by Catherine Hardwicke (TWILIGHT), is more of a yell at the screen over a character’s stupid choices kinda movie than it is a good one. As wonderful and charismatic as Gina Rodriguez is, she wasn’t able to save this film. Does that mean I didn’t have a bit of fun at the movie? No. Does that mean I didn’t gasp when Gina Rodriguez came strutting out to get revenge on baddies with her perfect hair and Jessica Rabbit red gown, all while slamming a clip in her rifle? HELLLLLLL NO. But hey, I won’t pretend the film doesn’t have its major issues, including plot holes, expositional dialogue, and ridiculous plot points.
Sylvia (Rodriguez) travels from her home in California to Tijuana, Mexico to help her best friend prepare for the upcoming Miss Baja California pageant. The women decide to go to a club to schmooze with the pageant coordinators, but are separated after a cartel infiltrates the club and starts shooting. Sylvia, in exchange for her safety and information about the location of her now missing friend, is blackmailed into working with the cartel. But of course, it can’t be that simple… especially when the cartel leader Lino (Ismael Cruz Córdova) begins having romantic feelings for her and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gets involved.
I can’t quit Gina Rodriguez. Even when her character is making incredibly stupid decisions, I still was rooting for her. I get it, in instances of life or death you aren’t always going to make smart, rational choices. But girrrrrl, when you pause and measure Sylvia’s decisionmaking at the end of the movie, it’s ridiculous. For instance, she trusts different groups of shady guys who are just short of having “villain” tattooed across their foreheads. She shoots a bad guy once and assumes he’s dead. And, my personal favorite, she writes a non-cryptic text about the location of a drug cartel leader, which could easily be read from said guy. Hello!?!?
I was also very disappointed that Sylvia was given basically zero backstory. It felt as though we learned more about the supporting characters in the film than we did Sylvia. Besides the facts she used to live in Mexico and is a makeup artist, I can’t think of anything else about her. I was half expecting there to be a twist that Sylvia was actually a U.S. government operative based on how little we knew about her character.
Like I said above, along with poor decision-making, there were plot issues and expositional dialogue galore. For instance, the whole pageant plot line was incredibly half-baked, especially since the movie spent such little time developing it. If it is such a major element of the story, why spend only five minutes total on the audition process and pageant itself? We got a glimpse of Rodriguez’s humorous side as she reacts to the outcome of the pageant, but I would’ve loved to see a bit more. You know, have elements of MISS CONGENIALITY. And don’t you dare try to get me to go full Patty Hearst and start shipping Sylvia with the predatory drug cartel leader. My romance-loving heart is weak, but I draw the line at Stockholm Syndrome.
Overall, MISS BALA isn’t a movie I would recommend you spend the full ticket price on… especially because you are going to want to yell at the screen in the comfort of your own home and perhaps rewind that red dress scene of Rodriguez kicking major butt. I can only hope that someone sees that scene alone and casts Rodriguez in an action flick worthy of her considerable talent.
My Review: C-