By Kaylee BrewsterFilm review
two out of four
Gina Rodriguez could be the next big female action hero; it’s too bad that “Miss Bala” doesn’t kick that future off on a strong note.
Gloria (Rodriguez) is a makeup artist in Los Angeles who travels to Tijuana to help her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) prepare for the Miss Baja pageant.
The night before the pageant, they visit a nightclub. That’s when everything goes wrong. Masked gunmen arrive, shooting up the club, and Suzu goes missing. While searching for her friend, Gloria is abducted by a criminal gang led by Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who forces her to help him in his illegal endeavours. He says he will help find Suzu after she helps him.
If that weren’t bad enough, Gloria also catches the eye of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is forced to help them or go to prison for the rest of her life for helping Lino. All alone with no one to trust, if Gloria is going to make it out alive, it’s up to her.
Unlike Liam Neeson’s character in “Taken,” Gloria does not have a particular set of skills to aid her against the baddies. She does what any average person would do under the same circumstances to get out of her situation. She doesn’t magically learn how to fight, shoot guns, break out of handcuffs or maneuver in a high-speed car chase. She learns a little along the way and has to learn quickly. It makes for a more realistic and tense film as the audience knows she can’t fight her way out of every situation.
Rodriguez brings authenticity to Gloria, who must appear calm, even when she’s anything but. This leads to numerous scenes with Lino or DEA agents where in which she is quiet and compliant. But when Gloria left on screen, her emotions surface. It’s a captivating performance, which only grows as Gloria toughens up and tries to take control of the situation.
Unfortunately, the story is less captivating. The driving force of the plot is Gloria’s search for Suzu. But that gets lost amid all the criminal and government conspiracies. Other elements of the story that at first seem important are forgotten. The amnesia causes the pacing of the movie to stumble and slow down until the tension grinds to a halt. In the film’s final moments, somebody seems to realize there’s a film to quickly wrap up.
Rodriguez gives her everything, and the audience will feel it. It’s a shame no one put as much effort into the story structure of “Miss Bala.” Rodriguez is a force to be reckoned with, and I’ll be in line for her next action flick, hoping for a story strong enough to match her performance capabilities.