Miss Bala (2 stars)

Miss Bala

Lightweight remake of the acclaimed Mexican crime drama, starring Gina Rodriguez

The US box office failure of Catherine Hardwicke's remake of the acclaimed 2011 Spanish-language thriller perhaps reflects post-Sicario fatigue with lurid fictions about cross-border conflict. The portrayal of Mexico as a seething cauldron of criminality and federal agents as angels of deliverance is strictly for those seeking brainless Friday night action fare.

Hardwicke's film features the traditional trope of a resourceful innocent forced to evolve fast in a dangerous situation. Gloria (Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez) is a Los Angeles-based make-up artist who crosses the border to hang out with pal Suzu (Cristina Rodlo). While attending a nightclub, gunfire breaks out and Suzu goes missing, leaving Gloria to pinball between corrupt cops, feds and the leaders of various cartels in the hope of saving her friend. The title Miss Bala refers to a local beauty pageant that Gloria is forced to enter to get close to a target.

Several of the ideas are imported directly from the original film and yet, by making its protagonist an outsider rather than a Mexican, credulity is strained and the impact is diluted. Gloria is also coerced into being a mule for cash and contraband but, despite relentless sexual threats, her attackers' advances are constantly interrupted by plot contrivances. This unwillingness to follow through on the unsavoury nature of the abduction premise weakens the film's credibility; Miss Bala feels like a lightweight take on a deadly serious subject.

Poster art depicting Rodriguez clutching a gun suggests a shoot-'em-up actioner, and Hardwicke's set-pieces are certainly substantial in scale – from the blazing nightclub battle to an explosive parking-lot showdown. Nevertheless, Gloria feels like a peripheral figure in the action until a few shooting lessons set her up for the climax. A tough, female-led thriller from the director of Twilight sounds great on paper; unfortunately, the lack of nous in Miss Bala's politics runs the film smack into a big brick wall.

General release from Fri 1 Mar.

Miss Bala

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • Mexico / US
  • Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
  • Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Cristina Rodlo, Ismael Cruz Córdova

Gloria (Rodriguez) is an LA-based make-up artist who crosses into Mexico to hang out with her friend Suzu (Rodlo), but then gets mixed up in a drug war. This remake of the acclaimed 2011 Spanish-language thriller turns it into brainless action fare, spoiling a serious subject by treating it in a lightweight way.