“What is this all for?!”
– Gloria Fuentes
I hate trailers. I know this isn’t some revolutionary statement, but it really needs saying after seeing a film like Miss Bala. Miss Bala was clearly going to be blatantly formulaic, and thus I felt safe enough trusting what the trailers told me would happen. Sadly, that was not the case.
Here is what I was expecting to see: Gina Rodriguez’ character (Gloria Fuentes) gets held captive trying to save her friend, gets in deep, and halfway through the movie she turns into a killer, freeing her friend and getting revenge.
Here’s what happened instead: Gloria Fuentes (and every other woman in the movie) got abused and harassed in different ways for 90% of the movie until she realized she’d been played, and shoots two bad guys. Oh, and gets invited to join the CIA! There were far too many scenes where women are sexually harassed for there to only be one quick scene of Gloria getting comeuppance to consider this an empowering movie like it was sold to be to the public.
Now, one could argue that Miss Bala’s plotline is more realistic than having a makeup artist turn into a gun-toting bad-ass hero (i.e. Taken: This Time, It’s a Woman). But at the same time, the plot was filled with so many holes and confusing character choices that it never felt very realistic at all.
It was incredibly unbelievable that Lino (Ismaael Cruz Cordova) could have been old or seasoned enough to have risen to the top of a gang that ruled Tijuana. Cordova is just 31 years old and looks younger. The original Miss Bala’s Lino was in his 40s, much more believable for such a supposedly successful crime lord. Lino also seemed very vulnerable to losing his spot by trusting the wrong people and making rookie mistakes. Anthony Mackie was tragically underutilized. The final scene also ended far too happily for what Gloria and Suzu just went through. How was Suzu able to just go right back home and not go into the witness protection program or at least move? Won’t the gang be coming back for the two women?
The film’s crew didn’t help things by filming it in the blandest way. Whenever Gloria went to a new city, overly-long panning shots and cuts made sure you knew exactly what city they were in, just in case you didn’t see the text. The soundtrack sounded like what you’d get if you just played the first “Latin Hits” Spotify playlist, and the score did nothing to help increase the intensity of the action scenes nor did it properly match the tone of a film filled with sex trafficking.
There were some bright spots to the movie. Gina Rodriguez is an incredible actress, and her commitment to this role further solidified it. She clearly isn’t just stuck playing Jane the Virgin type roles. When Gloria found Suzu at the party, she became the woman that the audience was hoping to see the entire time. The climactic scene was by far the best part of the movie, and it was totally worth my price of admission ($1.80, thanks a lot Sinemia processing fees) to see Rodriguez reload the magazine while strolling through fire in slow motion.
Sony Pictures put a big stake on a movie with a female director and a 95% Latino cast and crew, and that kind of representation is important in Hollywood. In 2018, Black Panther proved that minority-led superhero films can be successful and If Beale Street Could Talk proved the viability of vulnerable drama films carried by people of color. Miss Bala proves that everyone deserves to get formulaic, poorly-executed films made that represent them as well.