Review: MISS BALA

Gina Rodriguez Stands Out in the Drama “Miss Bala’’

By Liz Lopez

Rating B

Actress Gina Rodriguez has shown audiences what work she is capable of in both drama and comedy productions, as noted in her performances in “Annihilation (2018),” “Jane the Virgin” TV series (2014), and “Filly Brown (2012),” among her other work to date. It is no surprise that she is the protagonist in the Hollywood remake of “Miss Bala,” originally directed by Gerardo Naranjo, based on a script he co-wrote with Mauricio Katz (both Executive Producers for the remake) and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. Eight years later, Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight,” “Lords of Dogtown”), directs “Miss Bala” from the screenplay by writer/Executive Producer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, based on Naranjo’s Spanish-language film. Audiences unfamiliar with the films that have been produced by Canana Films (founded by long term friends and production partners Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) for the past 14 years, or paid attention to new/important films created in Mexico, then it is very possible many film fans will not be aware that the 2019 “Miss Bala” is a remake. One big draw to this film is definitely Gina Rodriguez and her performance, but viewers should be fully aware that this script is pretty standard Hollywood fare and that many scenes will not be as close to the reality of what actually transpires and is reported in the international news outlets. Despite the fact that this Hollywood version tries too hard to leave the audience with “a win” by the U. S. born protagonist, this film is definitely one to watch and see Gina Rodriguez climbing on up to claim her place among the stars.

In the Dunnet-Alcocer screenplay, Gloria Fuentes (Rodriguez) is a make – up artist in California who takes her wares to Mexico to visit a childhood friend, Suzu (Cristina Rodlo, “Ladrones”), who is auditioning for the local Mexican beauty-pageant, with plans to doll her up for the big day. A night out on the town turns dark when thugs roll in and shoot up the place while people run for their lives. The scenes are hard to watch, knowing that there has been so much loss of life by gunmen within the last three years in U. S. night clubs such as this. As the two long – term friends get separated that evening, Gloria makes it her mission to locate Suzu all night. The result turns out to be a continuation of the nightmare that began the evening before when Gloria is kidnapped by Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova, “Mary Queen of Scots” as David Rizzio) and his crew, Las Estrellas. What follows is the story of how Gloria proceeds cautiously with every step to stay alive and find the young lady she feels is like more like family. It is great to see how this character is created as an intelligent and resourceful young woman, thinking quickly on her feet to stay ahead and survive the madness.

There are signs of a (one sided) romance as Lino makes no bones about falling for her, but she is made well aware by Lino’s head minion, Poyo (Ricardo Abarca, excellent in his role) that he is watching her for any missteps. She isn’t safe with Lino, considering what he wants her to do, and what DEA Agent Brian Reich (Matt Lauria) ends up not doing for her, leaving her in the crossfire. At one point, she is introduced to another captive, Isabel (Aislinn Derbez, “Win it All,” “A la mala”), and sees firsthand that no one is spared if they think you have crossed the line. Jimmy (Anthony Mackie, “Avengers: Infinity War”) is not in every scene in the film, but his scenes do matter when Gloria is sent to do Lino’s biddings. You must watch the film to see.

Even though Gloria’s character is one that goes through a change and feels empowered to call the action, I am not impressed by the decision made in the script of where Suzu is left. It is totally outlandish that everyone would be happy as a lark to be left in a place that realistically would already have a cartel member close by; ready to take her out the minute the black vehicle drove into the neighborhood. Just remember, this is Hollywood. Let’s just see if the story of Gloria, the heroine, continues.

The film is in English with Spanish dialogue and has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of gun violence, sexual and drug content, thematic material, and language. The run time is one hour and 44 minutes and is released in theaters on February 1, 2019.

Source: Sony/Columbia Pictures

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