What Critics Really Thought of ‘Miss Bala’

Here’s a roundup of what the critics thought of Miss Bala, starring actress Gina Rodriguez.

The New York Times

The New York Times’ A.O. Scott gave the film mixed reviews.

Rodriguez, looking for action as “Jane the Virgin” winds down, finds it as Gloria Fuentes, a Los Angeles makeup artist ensnared in the cross-border drug trade. Gloria, who travels to Tijuana to help her childhood friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) prepare for a beauty contest, is basically in the wrong place at the wrong time, something that might be said for everyone involved with this movie, audience included.

This version, in the dreariest Hollywood-remake tradition, turns a grim, morally ambiguous story into a fable of empowerment. That might be kind of fun if it didn’t feel so tired and timid. Rodriguez shows a little spark early and late, but mostly she is stricken, scared and shut down. Which is understandable given the character’s predicament, but the movie itself exists in a similar state. Any disturbing implications of Gloria’s situation — any ethical quandaries, psychological insights or genuinely shocking circumstances — are kept in check. What happens around her is horrible, but not so horrible as to stand in the way of her ultimate triumph.

The Los Angeles Times

Gina Rodriguez |  JC Olivera/Getty Images
Gina Rodriguez attends the premiere of Columbia Pictures’ ‘Miss Bala’ at Regal LA Live Stadium 14 on January 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California | JC Olivera/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang described Miss Bala as a “generic remake.” He wasn’t impressed.

In “Miss Bala,” a disappointingly bland genre exercise directed by Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight,” “Thirteen”), a Los Angeles makeup artist heads to Tijuana, Mexico, to help her best friend enter a local beauty pageant. Big mistake.

Amid a hail of bullets and a string of explosions, our innocent heroine is repeatedly abducted, exploited, threatened and terrorized by murderous drug-cartel operatives and duplicitous narcs, becoming the pawn of a system where criminality is the law of the land.

It sounds like it should be better, and in fact, it already has been. A Hollywood revamp of a superior, same-titled 2012 thriller by the Mexican auteur Gerardo Naranjo, “Miss Bala” cleaves to that earlier picture in certain key story particulars. But nearly everything else that made Naranjo’s work so distinctive — the downbeat realism, the gliding camerawork, the biting political critique — has been clumsily jettisoned, leaving only generic action beats and a slapped-on ode to female empowerment in their place.

The Hollywood Reporter

Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy seemed satisfied with the movie. However, he feels the movie’s ending is a bit unrealistic.

Regular eruptions of gunfire and explosions rock the action from time to time, but director Catherine Hardwicke, still trying to regain her footing a decade after departing the Twilight franchise, delivers scenes of tension and violence that are tart and punchy enough (at least by PG-13 standards) — though she abandons the darker tone that drenched the original. Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer’s script has a tidy, programmed feel that results in a feel-good version of a grim and sordid modern yarn.

Whereas Sigman’s victimized innocent acquired a sort of traumatized numbness by what she was forced to experience, Rodriguez’s incarnation soldiers through it all with a can-do fortitude. Ultimately, this doesn’t translate into any emotional revelations or arresting insights other than the obvious. The ending seems as unlikely as the sight of the sun rising over the Pacific.

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