The trailer for Miss Bala has been running for a few months now, and, well, it didn’t look like much. It mostly made me think of how often movies try to present female protagonists as strong by making them basically male action heroes in heals. Still, lead actor Gina Rodriguez was in last year’s Annihilation, one of my 2018 favorites. Maybe Miss Bala will turn out OK.
Gloria Fuentes (Rodriguez) is a Los Angeles-based make-up artist. She takes a trip down to Tijuana to help her childhood friend Suzo prepare for a beauty pageant during which the two women take a trip to a nightclub. While there, armed gunmen working for a drug cartel storm in on an attempted assassination that ends with Suzo missing and Gloria in the hands of the cartel. Gloria’s efforts to find her friend and extricate both of them from the situation only further get her in trouble with the DEA. Can Gloria find Suzo and get them both away with their lives?
There isn’t much to this movie. I can’t say that director Catherine Hardwicke (who made Twilight) ever manages to create any scene with what feels like any sort of tension, and the script comes across as fairly cliched. Rodriguez is pretty good with what she’s given to do, and spends most of the movie as someone who clearly doesn’t want to be doing what she is doing but has to in order to survive and save her friend. That air that Rodriguez gives Gloria is the one thing that keeps the movie from being completely rote. She’s in over her head and she knows it. No one trusts her, she has no reason to trust anyone in turn, and she knows that as well. She even has some good chemistry with Ismael Cruz Cordova (who got his start on Sesame Street if Wikipedia is to be believed) as the cartel leader Lino. But ultimately, there isn’t much here.
Yeah, this movie is like the pitch perfect definition of cinematic mediocrity. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but there’s likewise nothing to write home about. I somehow suspect when I look over my reviews at the end of 2019 to compile my annual top ten list that I will have largely forgotten I saw this one. Maybe I should track down the Mexican original and see how that one turned out. In the meantime, this is a perfectly meh/C- kind of movie, so it’s getting a 7 out of 10 potentially corrupt law enforcement officials.