Despite the best efforts of the talented filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) and the game cast, “Miss Bala” Based on Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 Mexican film of the same name — which was inspired by a crazy,true story from 2008 about a beauty queen and a drug lord — “Miss Bala” stars the enormously likable Chicago native Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”) as Gloria, a makeup artist who was born in Mexico but has lived most of her life in California.
Now Gloria is back in Tijuanato see her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) and help Suzu prepare for a beauty pageant.
But after a night out clubbing goes horribly sideways, Suzu disappears and Gloria finds herself in the clutches of the suave but ruthless cartel kingpin Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who inexplicably brings Gloria into his inner circle, turns her into a drug mule, teaches her how to shoot an AR-15 rifle and maybe, just maybe, falls in love with her.
I like Ismael Cruz Cordova, but he and his henchmen in this movie are about as menacing as a boy band doing a Super Bowl halftime show. They like to take their shirts off and pour shots down each other’s throats instead of taking care of business.
Come on, henchmen. We presume you’ve been doing this for years,but in a matter of days the formerly innocent makeup artist Gloria is outfoxing you at every turn.
After a series of increasingly ludicrous happenstances, including but not limited to Gloria easily crossing the border while transporting cash,cocaine and/or weapons; a semi-romantic interlude in which Lino gifts Gloria with a dress and takes her on a date as if they’re in a mid-1990s romantic comedy; and Gloria entering the Miss Baja California pageant at the last minute and no one asking, “Hey, what’s your talent?” we get a “twist” we saw coming about a hundred miles away.
“Miss Bala” was the only film put out on Super Bowl weekend which is usually a death sentence. The title “Miss Bala” Rodriguez’s Gloria is given is actually a nickname meaning bullet in Spanish.
There is no lack of action here but the narrative drags. But the main problem is that we know exactly what’s going to happen in practically every scene long before the characters do. The other big name in the cast is Anthony Mackie, who only has two scenes. One, unfortunately, teases the possibility of a sequel.
“Miss Bala” isn’t poorly made, technically. Some of its themes and messages are appropriate to the times. But the film has the overall feel of a late night, made for cable/Direct to DVD effort. If you’re looking for an intense, compelling and provocative action thriller, this isn’t it, more of a Lifetime film vibe.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of gun violence, sexual and drug content, thematic material, and language
REVIEW SCORE/ C-