Gina Rodriguez: You deserve much better than this.
Anyone thinking about plunking down the bucks to check out “Miss Bala” this weekend: You DEFINITELY deserve better than this.
MPAA ratings board: Shame on you for assigning a rating of PG-13 to a cynical and violent movie featuring multiple extended shootouts, a terrorist bombing and a beauty pageant that’s a front for a kidnapping ring in which young women are sold as sex slaves.
But hey, there’s not much swearing, and the violence isn’t TOO graphic and there’s no nudity, so “Miss Bala” avoids the R rating.
Unlike last year’s sublime and smart and valuable “Eighth Grade,” which actual eighth graders couldn’t see without an adult guardian because it was rated R “for language and some sexual material.”
Ratings aside, despite the best efforts of the talented filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke and the game cast, “Miss Bala” is an early contender for a spot on my list of the worst movies of 2019.
Let’s put it this way: As I sat down at the keyboard to send you this review, I had to give my eyes a chance to refocus because they’d been rolling to the back of my head for much of the previous 104 minutes.
Based on Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 Mexican film of the same name — which was inspired by a crazy, true story from 2008 about a beauty queen and a drug lord — “Miss Bala” stars the enormously likable Chicago native Gina Rodriguez as Gloria, a makeup artist who was born in Mexico but has lived most of her life in California.
Now Gloria is back in Tijuana to see her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) and help Suzu prepare for a beauty pageant.
But after a night out clubbing goes horribly sideways, Suzu disappears and Gloria finds herself in the clutches of the suave but ruthless cartel kingpin Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), who inexplicably brings Gloria into his inner circle, turns her into a drug mule, teaches her how to shoot an AR-15 rifle and maybe, just maybe, falls in love with her.
I like Ismael Cruz Cordova, but he and his henchmen in this movie are about as menacing as a boy band doing a Super Bowl halftime show circa 2000. They like to take their shirts off and pour shots down each other’s throats instead of taking care of business.
Come on, henchmen. We presume you’ve been doing this for years, but in a matter of days the formerly innocent makeup artist Gloria is outfoxing you at every turn.
After a series of increasingly ludicrous happenstances, including but not limited to Gloria easily crossing the border while transporting cash, cocaine and/or weapons; a semi-romantic interlude in which Lino gifts Gloria with a dress and takes her on a date as if they’re in a mid-1990s romantic comedy; and Gloria entering the Miss Baja California pageant at the last minute and no one asking, “Hey, what’s your talent?” we get a “twist” we saw coming about a hundred miles away before “Miss Baja” finally puts us out of our misery.
About 103 minutes too late.
Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer. Rated PG-13 (for gun violence, sexual and drug content, thematic material and language). Running time: 104 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.