WILL STINSON reviews Miss Bala and finds it without a plot, a script, and a half-decent director.
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
The film ends, I yawn and after what feels like weeks, I look at my watch. Thankfully I’ve only wasted an hour and a half of my life watching Miss Bala. The trailers convinced me I was in for a thrilling ride of sex, gore and gunfights. And they were right – we had these – but we had so much of these that the plot curled in on itself and died as soon as the main characters were introduced.
Miss Bala is the story of Laura Guerrero (newbie Stephanie Sigman), a young woman who clings onto her dream of becoming a beauty queen in Tijuana, a Mexican city dominated by organised crime. With fiery plot that dissolves after 20 minutes, Miss Bala is a brilliantly conceived storyline that, somehow, turns into slow-paced, meandering and unintelligible agony.
Slow-paced, meandering, unintelligible agony: Miss Bala
Between the atrociously haphazard ending and the credits, a supposedly deep and meaningful paragraph pops up: “Between 2006 and 2011, 30,000 people have died in the Mexican drug war.” Miss Bala contained no reference to drugs. None. Yes, people got shot (a lot), but there was no reason for this apart from the fact that they are Mexican gangsters and that is what they do.
With documentary-style camerawork, director Gerardo Naranjo has attempted to create a Mexican take on City of God, but there’s a hitch; the plot is playing hide and seek, and it’s definitely winning.
How does a beauty pageant competitor, hardworking and sensible, wind up as a pawn in a group of militant political activists? After a shooting at a nightclub, Guerrero goes searching for her friend; after only three scenes she is so caught up, as is the director, in the gritty yet sexy image of a young woman running through gunfire that the whole cast and production team have forgotten Guerrero’s motivation. Instead, Miss Bala is objectified, with only her body and looks used to drag the film to its abysmal conclusion.
Guerrero is a brilliantly cast young actress who does her job very well. She allows the audience to view the film through her eyes, showing her increasing trauma and dislocation from her own conscience as she delves further into the underworld of Mexican organised crime. She does not, however, really fight this path. When told to have sex with her captor, she does not fight, scream or run. Rather, she strips off and holds a facial expression of: “Alright, get on with it.” Guerrero is the only saving grace of this atrociously produced commentary of the state of Mexico today.
Perhaps, this being a Spanish-language film, everything was simply lost in translation. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. More than likely, Miss Bala is an awfully scripted, directed and produced film. Confused? You will be if you watch Miss Bala.