‘Bala’ barely grazes the target

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By Paul Hall

What starts out as a simple trip to Tijuana to help a friend quickly escalates in the new film Miss Bala, in theaters now.

Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) lives in Los Angeles and works hard as a makeup artist. Her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) needs help with her makeup for the Miss Baja California pageant. Little do either of the women know, they are about to be thrust into the middle of an intense feud.

While spending a night on the town rubbing elbows with the pageant’s judges, Gloria witnesses an assassination attempt on the police chief. Hiding from the flying bullets and running for their lives, she and Suzu get separated, and in Gloria’s search for Suzu, she lets the wrong person know that she was a witness to the attackers.

Taken away by thugs, Gloria begins to work for Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), but simply as a means to an end, knowing this is the only way she will survive and possibly find Suzu. This “work” Gloria does plants her in the middle of the dispute between the DEA, local police, Lino and his gang, and other shady characters on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border. Can she survive on this frightening and very real playing field?

“Bala” translates to “bullet” in English, and as the thought process goes, “the bullet settles everything.” In this film, bullets fly everywhere and at everyone.

Rodriguez is a cool heroine leading the charge against bad guys to the left and to the right. At times, however, she seems uncomfortable with some of the grittiness that is called upon from her. Some of the other members of the supporting cast also seem a bit uneasy with the subject matter, and the film tends to lack a certain believability despite the visual and audio spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

There are great action sequences that are bookended by scenes that fail to engage and elicit the terror of the subject matter at hand. And yes, before it’s done, you’ll see the full scope of the horrifying reality of what is going on.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure how this film received a PG-13 rating — which is why I’m amazed that it still needed more realism in every aspect. More realism would have not only been allowed, but also encouraged, to prevent the film from diluting the material.

Instead Miss Bala scratched the surface of a much larger and desperate issue and the moral conflict that takes place surrounding it.

I really wanted to like this film. The premise was exciting for me, but instead of hitting the bullseye, Miss Bala barely strikes the outer rim of the target.

Paul’s Grade: C-

Miss Bala
Rated PG-13
Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Ismael Cruz Cordova
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

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