Miss Bala

Miss Bala

2019, PG-13, 104 min. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Starring Gina Rodriguez, Cristina Rodlo, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Ricardo Abarca, Matt Lauria, Anthony Mackie.

REVIEWED By Danielle White, Fri., Feb. 1, 2019

Catherine Hardwicke is likely best known as the director of the first Twilight movie, but she cut her teeth in Hollywood production design (Tank Girl, Vanilla Sky), and before that she majored in architecture at UT. Her latest film, Miss Bala, has a similarly obscured history.

It’s a “remake” of a 2011 Mexican drama (which was based on a real-life story) and the major difference between the first Miss Bala and this Miss Bala is that the main character, Gloria (Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin), has a bit more agency – oh, hello, 2019. She’s working in L.A. as a makeup artist, a regular everywoman eating shit at work like the rest of us and feeling pretty insignificant against the day-to-day shuffle. A weekend trip to Tijuana, her hometown, to help her friend Suzu (Rodlo) prepare for the Miss Baja California beauty pageant changes all that. The women are separated after witnessing a shooting in a nightclub, and Gloria is kidnapped by the leader of a cartel, Lino (Cordova), who promises to help get her friend back if she does a few things for him. NBD, right? As you may have guessed, things don’t exactly go as planned, and Gloria is (literally) caught in the cross-fire between gang members and law enforcement. Meanwhile, she’s determined to find her friend. Whatever it takes.

Hardwicke has a way of telling stories that morph borderline sociopaths into charmers: I’m thinking specifically of mopey vampire Edward, but even Thirteen’s Evie qualifies, and Lino fits right in with that bunch. He’s a very bad man, but he’s characterized in a way that is a little too humanizing for comfort – he’s well-spoken and handsome and downright gentlemanly with Gloria (in a way that detracts from any sense of authenticity). At one point, he tells his associate not to grab her by the arm (although he was doing the same exact thing a few scenes before) and that’s how we know he “respects” women – except we know he doesn’t; it’s just this one, so she must be special.

As things are chugging along, it feels fairy tale-esque, like Beauty and the Beast crossed with a telenovela. Yet there’s this very real-world cynicism that wants to show us that the drug bosses are just as dirty as the cops, and we’re all guilty of perpetuating violence against innocents (on that note, quit buying cocaine already). With thriller pacing and the aerial shots of a generic action film, Miss Bala is a ride. There are times when it’s funny. There are also times when it beats you over the head with context clues. When the action ramps up, the over-the-top music score seems to stomp its foot and say, “Something is hap-pen-ing!” Certain plot points are overemphasized. It veers toward parody. But it’s also satisfying to see the outcome. At the beginning of the film, Rodriguez comes to the role with hints of Jane the Virgin’s naivete and her 1,000-watt smile. She constantly has to make choices, and some of them are kinda repulsive. It’s interesting that “I only do what I have to do to survive” is a phrase used by Lino the drug lord, yet it keeps being applied to Gloria. As if that makes it okay. Yet that’s when the film achieves the closest thing to verisimilitude: It’s complicated.

For an interview with the director, read Catherine Hardwicke Unloads With Miss Bala," Feb. 1.

Showtimes

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Sat., Feb. 16

digital 2:35

Sun., Feb. 17

digital 2:35

Mon., Feb. 18

digital 2:35, 8:00

Tue., Feb. 19

digital 2:35, 8:00

Wed., Feb. 20

digital 2:35, 8:00

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sat., Feb. 16

digital 10:45am, 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10

Sun., Feb. 17

digital 10:45am, 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10

Mon., Feb. 18

digital 10:45am, 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10

Tue., Feb. 19

digital 10:45am, 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10

Wed., Feb. 20

digital 10:45am, 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10

Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center

18820 Hilltop Commercial Dr., 512/251-0938, www.cinemark.com

Sat., Feb. 16

digital 10:00

Sun., Feb. 17

digital 10:00

Mon., Feb. 18

digital 10:00

Tue., Feb. 19

digital 10:00

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sat., Feb. 16

CC/DVS 10:30

Sun., Feb. 17

CC/DVS 10:30

Mon., Feb. 18

CC/DVS 10:30

Tue., Feb. 19

CC/DVS 10:30

Wed., Feb. 20

CC/DVS 10:30

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sat., Feb. 16

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Sun., Feb. 17

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Mon., Feb. 18

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Tue., Feb. 19

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Wed., Feb. 20

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Thu., Feb. 21

CC/DVS 2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:30

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Sat., Feb. 16

11:10am, 2:00, 4:45, 7:25, 10:05

Sun., Feb. 17

11:10am, 2:00, 4:45, 7:25, 10:05

Mon., Feb. 18

11:45am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Tue., Feb. 19

11:45am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Wed., Feb. 20

11:45am, 2:30, 5:15, 8:00, 10:45

Thu., Feb. 21

11:45am, 2:30

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sat., Feb. 16

CC/DVS 11:30am, 10:15

Sun., Feb. 17

CC/DVS 11:30am, 10:15

Mon., Feb. 18

CC/DVS 11:30am, 10:15

Tue., Feb. 19

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:10, 4:20, 7:35, 10:05

Wed., Feb. 20

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:10, 4:20, 7:35, 10:05

Thu., Feb. 21

CC/DVS 11:00am, 2:10, 7:35

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Catherine Hardwicke
SXSW Film Conference Quickies
SXSW Film Conference Quickies
Catherine Hardwicke's Directing Workshop

Cindy Widner, March 18, 2011

Not Another Teen Movie
Not Another Teen Movie
UT Grad Catherine Hardwicke and ‘Thirteen’

Kimberley Jones, Aug. 29, 2003

More Catherine Hardwicke
From the Vaults: The New Face of the Academy
From the Vaults: The New Face of the Academy
Danny Trejo, Jeff Nichols, and Catherine Hardwicke are new nominees

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 7, 2013

More Catherine Hardwicke Films
Miss You Already
Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette co-star as best friends facing crises

Kimberley Jones, Nov. 6, 2015

Red Riding Hood
Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the first Twilight movie, helms this update of the fairy tale.

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 18, 2011

More by Danielle White
Happy Death Day 2U
Comedy-horror sequel is less Halloween, more Groundhog Day

Feb. 15, 2019

Tito and the Birds
Brazilian animation goes for the throat of Late Capitalism

Feb. 8, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Miss Bala, Catherine Hardwicke, Gina Rodriguez, Cristina Rodlo, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Ricardo Abarca, Matt Lauria, Anthony Mackie

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle