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Film / Bandits

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Two's company. Three's a crime. Or a threesome.

Bank Teller: Is this a joke?
Joe: No, ma'am. This is a bank robbery.

Bandits is a 2001 romantic crime comedy caper directed by Barry Levinson and starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.

Tough guy with hidden depths Joe Blake (Willis) one day decides to escape from prison on a whim and takes with him super intelligent but highly neurotic Terry Collins (Thornton). Joe robs a bank to fund their life on the run, which turns out to be surprisingly easy and the two cohorts then hatch a master plan to rob banks across the country to amass enough money to flee south to Mexico, buy a bar and live out the rest of their days in comfort. Their modus operandi is to show up at the Bank Manager's home the night before the heist in a various array of disguises, spend the night and then force their captive to open the vault in the morning before the bank opens (effectively avoiding a hold-up situation), earning them the moniker, The Sleepover Bandits.

The plan runs smoothly until Terry runs into a woman—or rather, she literally runs into him—named Kate Wheeler (Blanchett), an ignored and depressed trophy wife who is desperate for some adventure and romance in her sterile, suburban life. Joe, instantly attracted to her, decides to take Kate on as their hostage (she actually stays with them of her own free will and is, in fact, an accomplice), much to Terry's initial displeasure. Things take a turn for the worse when both men inevitably end up falling head over heels in love with their 'hostage' and she seems unable to choose between them, causing a serious fracture in their criminal partnership at a time when they're planning their biggest heist to date, one that will end their legendary crime spree in style...

For the 1997 German film, see: Bandits (1997).

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: All the main characters fall under this trope, being criminals but also protagonists who the audience are expected to root for. Joe and Terry differ from most bank robbers, fictional or otherwise, being famous for their lack of the use of violence and the general 'courtesy' they show towards their captives.
  • Bank Robbery: Lots of them, being the the main characters' crime of choice.
  • Batman Gambit: The final heist, which uses Harvey's special effects and good acting from both Terry and Joe. Kate's phone call to the police alerting them to the final heist was also part of the plan as part of the Mutual Kill aspect with the added bonus of getting the reward money.
  • Better Partner Assertion: Part of the ongoing feud between Joe and Terry involves Terry arguing that he is better than Joe because he is smart, sensitive, and "a lot of other things". Surprisignly, Kate ends up choosing them both.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Joe uses a marker pressed against the guard's neck to convince him he has a gun. The guard then hands over his gun and the two use it to rob the bank.
  • Brick Joke: Joe hangs a blanket to split the bed, claiming he saw it in a movie. When Kate asks him how the movie ends, he says "with a wedding." The film ends at Harvey's wedding. note 
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Terry, despite his numerous quirks and neuroticisms, is actually a pretty damn competent (and inventive) criminal.
    • Harvey, when he's on his A-game, is a great front man and arranges a stunt show worthy of any hollywood blockbuster. He's also barely functional.
  • The Caper: The Sleepover Bandits' final heist is on a much larger scale than their previous robberies, and ingenious and multi-layered in nature.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Claire. Initially her appearance is more of a distraction for Harvey until we find that she is also part of the final heist.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Harvey is learning how to use special effects to simulate gunshot wounds and set himself on fire when Joe and Terry first meet him. His skills come in essential as the 'special effects guy' during the gang's big final heist.
  • Cock Fight: The latter half of the film is this trope, with Joe and Terry constantly bickering and trying to trick and one-up each other to win Kate's affection, culminating in a prolonged physical fight involving guns and plate glass windows.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Harvey. Driving in the opposite lane just to wave at Joe and Terry, then, when faced with an oncoming truck (which he would have seen if he weren't preoccupied with looking to the side), he panics and accidentally forces Joe's car off the road in a PIT maneuver, causing the car to be hit by the truck and everyone to be filmed by a man on the side of the road. It's more blind luck that no one was hurt, that Harvey and Kate's vehicle wasn't hit and they weren't all caught then and there.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: "We never stole a penny from anybody who earned it, lady. The money's federally ensured by the government. The government steals money from people, and we just take it back from them."
  • Evil Genius: Nominally Terry's role in the gang, but as they collectively have an F in Evil he's more The Smart Guy.
  • Flash Back / Flash Forward: The film is framed around their final heist and a true crime documentary about them, which takes us back through the whole story.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: At their first robbery that goes wrong, Joe and Kate flee in the cop car. The cop then does this to Harvey, having no idea he's one of the gang.
  • Foreshadowing: The incredible danger of the Alamo Savings and Loan heist, with its floor-to-ceiling windows in the middle of downtown LA, committed in a style completely outside their regular M.O., is actually All According to Plan.
  • Gasshole: The daughter of the first bank manager the Bandits spend the night with rips a huge belch at the dinner table after offering to show the Bandits "something cool". Also applies to the actress, who is Bruce Willis's daughter, and according to him, no special effects were used in that scene.
  • Genius Ditz: Harvey. He's a genius when it comes to elaborate special effects and stunts, but a complete ditz in every other area. In one scene, he's wearing a hilariously garish cowboy-style outfit and the following dialogue occurs:
    Terry: Harvey?
    Harvey: Yeah?
    Terry: Do you remember what I said about conspicuous behavior?
    Harvey: Keep it low profile.
    Terry: Are you achieving it do you think?
    Harvey: Yep.
    Terry: Good boy.
  • The Heart: Kate, being the emotional core and the only woman in the gang. Well, up until Claire ('Pink Boots') helps them out with their final heist, that is.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Kate. Naturally, she wants to be the singer for the band at the hotel and club they plan to open.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with news coverage of Joe and Terry having a Mexican Standoff with each other in the middle of what appears to be a bank robbery gone wrong.
  • Hypochondria: Terry Collins's greatest weakness is his intense hypochondria. He seems to listen to diagnostic books on tape as a combination coping/self harm mechanism.
    Terry: And I've got symptoms, Joe. I don't care what that doctor says.
  • Induced Hypochondria: Related to the above, Terry's awareness of his own hypochondria and "sensitivity to suggestion" does little to protect him. Joe manages to convince him that his entirely fictional brother died of a brain tumor, losing control of his body after smelling burning feathers, resulting in Terry losing control of his body after smelling burning feathers.
    Terry: You see, my body chemistry is extraordinarily sensitive to suggestion. Any symptom can be manufactured, given the right circumstances... and that, by the way, doesn't mean it isn't real.
  • Indy Ploy: Joe Blake's speciality. His quick thinking gets the pair out of prison to start with, and gets them through their first bank job less than a half hour later.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall
    • The Criminals At Large segments are typically lead into and out of by the host of the show directing its editing, which is then reflected in the film itself.
    • The Alamo Savings and Loan heist is an elaborate performance put on by Joe and Terry for the media and authorities. Fittingly, inside the bank the two of them exchange dramatic dialogue, exciting gunfire, and hackneyed exposition all while standing in front of a giant glass screen the whole world can watch through. Even the hostages in the bank are all sitting in a line in front of them like an audience.
  • Loveable Rogue: Both Joe and Terry. Joe is the more typical example (a charming ladies man) while Terry is dorkishly endearing.
  • Love Triangle: Kate falls in love with both Joe and Terry and they fall for her as well. It starts to cause serious problems in their bank robbing schemes when they begin to fight over her attention.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Kate, oh so much. Let's see... Stunningly attractive? Check. High on life? Check, once she gets away from her uncaring husband, that is. Full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies? Check. Tendency towards petty crime? Check... well, if you can call bank robberies petty crime... She especially embodies the trope towards Terry as her off-beat and talkative nature ends up bringing him out of his neurotic, hypochondriac shell considerably. Funny enough, she sees Joe and Terry as this for her own life.
    Joe: What'd you bring her here for?
    Terry: One, I had no choice, two, I may have suffered a slight concussion and three, she is mentally imbalanced to a spectacular degree.
    Kate: I can hear you!
  • Mutual Kill: Joe and Terry end up shooting each other when the final bank heist goes awry. Averted as it was All According to Plan.
  • Odd Couple: Joe and Terry. Terry being a neurotic hypochondriac and Joe being... Bruce Willis.
  • Polyamory: The solution Kate proposes to the Love Triangle that develops in the second half of the movie. While it has a rocky start full of Cock Fighting, leading to a Second-Act Breakup, Joe and Terry manage to come to some kind of understanding on how the relationship will work, and when we see them at the end, the three of them seem to be in a stable throuple.
    Kate: But what if I don't want to?
    Terry: Want to what?
    Kate: [Nervous smile] Choose?
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Terry puts one on Kate to try and keep her from breaking up the band, but it doesn't stick.
    Terry: What are you doing here? [...] I mean, manic depression, delusion, I understand all that. It's very impressive, but [...] I don't think you're crazy at all, you know that? I think you're bored. I think you're bored with your life and you're expecting that some miracle's gonna drop out of the sky, and suddenly make everything better... or at least hopeful... because you lost hope a long time ago. And your marriage sucks. But, I'm sorry, Kate. We can't help you.
    Kate: You don't know me, you only think you do.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Again, Terry and Joe.
    Terry: Kate, you should choose. What's it gonna be? Mr. Action Figure Hero Guy? Or brains, and sensitivity, and a lot of other things I could name. So in other words: me or THAT guy?
    Joe: Yeah, good looking, or ITCHY.
  • Shout-Out
  • The Smart Guy: Terry. He's the guy that came up with their modus operandi in the first place, and does all of the strategic planning.
  • Threesome Subtext: Kate refuses to choose between Joe and Terry and in the end it's made pretty clear that they're in some kind of three way relationship as she is standing with both of them at Harvey's wedding and she kisses each of them passionately in turn. It's also fairly easy to miss, but if you look closely there Kate is clearly pregnant, raising the question, who's the daddy?
    Kate: Now, the heart is a mysterious organ, and it, plays by its own rules. I don't wanna choose. You know, I don't think I can... and... if that's scary or against the laws of... men, or whatever, then... I mean, you're outlaws, right? So... I guess I'm an outlaw, too.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Done twice. The first time Kate splits a bed with Joe by hanging a blanket between them. The second time Terry takes the floor. Neither arrangements last long.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Every one of the "Sleepover Bandit" heists goes relatively according to plan but has some complication at the end ranging from mild (they have to lock up dozens of bank employees in the first robbery, and keep having to take the children of the manager to the bathroom because they drank too much juice) to the catastrophic (stealing a cop car to make a getaway). The final heist's planning is mostly obscured from the audience and goes off without a hitch.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: Terry wakes up shouting "Beavers and ducks!"