Dr. D. on the road in Mexico.

Have you seen the new movie Bandidas? Have you even heard of the movie Bandidas? You haven’t? But it premiered in France on January 18, 2006, and in Spain on August 4, 2006. This movie stars Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz! What do you mean you haven’t heard of Bandidas?

Actually, I’d be surprised if you had heard of Bandidas. I almost didn’t hear of it myself. In the direct to DVD phenomenon of movie magic for profit, I read about the Bandidas DVD release couple of months back in Hoy, the Spanish newspaper I get delivered to my house for free. I looked to buy the movie at the usual places where I buy DVDs, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. And I also thought it would be in Spanish because I read about the movie in Spanish in a Spanish newspaper, but not in any of the newspapers printed in English! Well, I couldn’t find the movie in theaters or at the store, and once I did find it, I was disappointed because it was English! I found the movie when I bought hard drive for my home network that was bundled with three free movies that I could download as part of a trial service for home movies. One of the free movies that I downloaded was Bandidas, since I wanted to see it after reading about it. I hate to say this, but I am sure glad I didn’t pay for it.

Hayek and Cruz are great actresses who wanted to make a movie together for the longest time, hence Bandidas. However, this certainly was not one of their best acting performances. Hayek was much better as Frida Kahlo. And Cruz, well, I will never forget her incredible performance as a pregnant nun with AIDS!

Anyway, the movie is set in Mexico in the 1880s or thereabouts. Hayek plays Sara Sandoval, a spoiled, European-educated Mexican woman, and Cruz plays María Álvarez, a poor Mexican peasant. I was disappointed that the movie was in English, but relieved that Cruz spoke English with a Mexican accent, rather than her usual English with a Spanish accent that sounds as if she’s from Spain, which she is, by the way. An evil American railroad magnate decides to buy the land in the path of their new railroad line by whatever means possible, including killing landowners who refuse to sell. The attempted murder of Álvarez’s father and the the murder of Sandoval’s father sets the contrived plot in motion, which reminded me of those made-for-TV movies from the 1970s. So Álvarez and Sandoval learn to rob banks and save the day by stopping the evil American. Where you expecting a better ending? Actually, so was I.

I loved the panoramic Mexican scenery as Sandoval and Álvarez traveled across Mexico. Those Mexican mountains are quite beautiful! However, they were no match for the mountainous cleavage of Hayek and Cruz. What mountain climber could resist scaling those peaks? Talk about gratuitous cleavage scenes! Of course, it’s a well-known fact that the quality of a movie is directly proportional to the amount of cleavage shown. But deep down inside, I know that their cleavage was necessary for plot development. Otherwise, they would have never gotten the help they needed by enticing their male partner Quentin Cooke to join their bank-robbing spree.

The movie does portray Mexicans in a realistic light, including the social and class distinctions. There are good politicians who care for the general welfare of their people and bad politicians who are greedy and assist the evil American railroad magnate. But as far as Mexican realism, I preferred Nacho Libre because it pulled no punches describing Mexican poverty. I’m not sure I can recommend Bandidas. If you happen to run across it–but don’t go out of your way to find it–go ahead and watch it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!