REVIEW: ‘Miss Bala’ mostly misses the mark

So the name of the movie is “Miss Bala” but a big part of the film has to do with a beauty pageant called “Miss Baja.” Consider me somewhat confused.

Anyway, “Miss Bala” follows the character Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), a young woman who takes a trip to visit her friend in Mexico. During her time there, she and her friend go out to a night club. A fun night out turns deadly, though, when a cartel shooting takes place and Gloria barely makes it out of the crossfire. Unfortunately, despite getting out of the club safely, Gloria soon learns that her friend, Suzu (Christina Rodlo), is missing.

As a result, Gloria begins exploring her surroundings to find her friend. However, in doing so, she’s dragged into a dangerous situation involving both a powerful cartel and United States Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

“Miss Bala” is a rather prototypical crime drama taking place in Mexico. While the film offers somewhat of a fresh perspective by having a protagonist enter this criminal underground world as an inexperienced, innocent person, it doesn’t carry the depth as, say, the recent “Sicario” movies.

With that said, sometimes the familiar can be a good way to kill about two hours and “Miss Bala” pretty much fits in this category. While the film is rather predictable and the ending becomes extremely far-fetched, there’s at least some entertainment value and a few moments of suspense.

What really gives the movie a boost is Rodriguez in the lead role. Her performance succeeds in carrying many of the scenes with convincing work. The fear and stress her character experiences, along with her resolve to help her friend, is well portrayed here.

The rest of the cast is fairly average for the most part, with few real standouts. For example, Matt Lauria is largely forgettable as a generic tough as nails law enforcement agent.

The film is also noticeably lacking in style. The script, for example, is largely by the books and the cinematography doesn’t offer many memorable visual moments.

As a whole, Director Catherine Hardwicke’s latest film, which was inspired by a 2011 Mexican picture with the same name, is mostly flat. The film had some interesting moments, but it has more cons than pros and the ending really causes things to falter. It earns enough points thanks to its entertainment value and Rodriguez’s performance, but just enough to catch on a streaming service. 2.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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