“Miss Bala,” which opened last weekend’s box office with an unceremonious thud, is an exercise in lost potential, unfortunately squandering a breakout performance from Gina Rodriguez due to questionable screenwriting and clunky direction.
“Miss Bala,” based on the Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 Spanish-language film by the same name, follows Gloria (Rodriguez), a Los Angeles-based makeup artist visiting her friend, Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) in Tijuana.
The two go out to a club, and a shootout ensues. Gloria and Suzu are separated, with the former abducted by a cartel and the latter nowhere to be found. From there, Gloria has to use every bit of her wit, strength and creativity to stay alive.
FILM FACT BOX
Title: Miss Bala
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Anthony Mackie, Matt Lauria, Cristina Rodlo, Ricardo Abarca, Damián Alcázar
Writer: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Runtime: 104 minutes
First and foremost, despite any of the film’s other problems, Gina Rodriguez has to be commended for shouldering so much of the movie’s emotional intensity. She’s vulnerable when she needs to be, and when she is given the chance to be a complete Rambonian badass, she delivers in a huge way.
The only problem is that that happens maybe twice throughout the entire movie. The majority of the middle third of “Miss Bala” really only has one action scene, and it is a puzzlingly confusing shootout between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the gang holding Gloria hostage. There are bullets and grenades (lots of grenades) flying every which direction, and it’s nearly impossible to watch it without wondering what the hell is going on.
On top of the constant misdirection, this scene in particular gives the audience the idea that our main characters are either invisible or invincible. They stand out in the open in the middle of what could be perceived as a genuine war zone, and Gloria, still not a super-soldier at this point by any means, comes out relatively unscathed.
The action scenes are directed much less carefully than some of the others, and perhaps that’s why they’re so few and far between. Because of this general lack of excitement, the tension completely falls on Rodriguez’s acting, along with that of co-star Ismael Cruz Córdova, who plays Lino, the leader of the gang that took Gloria.
Córdova is serviceable in the role, but for someone who portrays the leader of a violent gang, he seems to have a difficult time turning up any ruggedness that doesn’t involve giving Gloria a slight push in the back or creepily touching her. The role would’ve been much better suited to someone a bit more rough around the edges.
Because of this meandering script that takes a while to show its hand, basically the entire movie rests on Rodriguez’s shoulders. As she’s shown in films like last year’s “Annihilation,” she can handle it, but she can only carry it so far. The result is a remake that doesn’t surpass the original, and therefore feels like a bit of a waste in the grand scheme of things, which is a real shame.
Cameron Hoover is a film critic. Contact him at email@example.com.