Review: Miss Bala

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: In this remake of the 2011 Spanish-language film, MISS BALA tells the story of a young woman who must find the strength to survive and save her friend after being taken hostage by a drug lord in Mexico.

REVIEW: The appeal to remake a popular foreign film certainly could be a tempting one. In this case, it is the 2011 feature MISS BALA (the original was executive produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) getting an America update. This time, the woman in distress is played by the charming Gina Rodriguez. Unfortunately  – unlike the original – you’ll be hard pressed to find a ton of praise. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, the latest take on the subject of a woman caught in a crime lord’s web is light on thrills. In fact, this version suffers from a made-for-TV feel, and the story line runs the gamut from a bit dull to outlandishly preposterous. Much of what made the 2011 feature intriguing has been swept aside to make a clumsy and generic action flick.

Gina Rodriguez is Gloria, a make-up artist who is visiting her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) in Tijuana, Mexico. Suzu, who is entering the Miss Baja California beauty pageant, is hoping that her best pal Gloria will give her the boost she needs for the event. Before the competition, the two set out for a little celebration to schmooze with some of the judges. Things get dark when a group of men with guns raid the club they are at, separating the two. When Gloria – who happened to survive coming face to face with the gunmen – searches for her friend, she is taken hostage by the men in question. Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova) – the one seemingly in charge – takes an interest in her, and promises to make sure Suzu and her little brother are safe as long as Gloria plays a part in a deadly plan. Soon, Gloria is the pawn between the DEA and a group of weapon and drug smugglers, and all she really wants to do is save herself and the ones she loves.

miss bala gina rodriguez anthony mackie ismael cruz cordova catherine hardiwicke gareth dunnet-alcocer remake action 2019 joblo.comThere are movies that you can just sit back and enjoy the experience, even though you realize you aren’t watching great art. At times, MISS BALA was that movie. Much of that is because of Ms. Rodriguez herself. While the role isn’t terribly well written or even very interesting, Gina has a natural charisma that makes the character a bit more enthralling. However, it is hard to completely get behind Gloria and her plight for a myriad of reasons. With everyone around her – even the good guys (?) – they are all so awful that you wish she’d make much better choices. And frankly, we know very little about her and who she is. The part is so bland and uninspired that the only thing going for it is Gina herself. The actress can easily headline an action feature like this, but here’s hoping the next time she has more to work with.

Strangely enough, the villainous Lina is given a bit more background in an attempt to create a captor and hostage romance. We learn more about his own past and why he went in the direction of crime and violence. Not to say that it is excused in any way, but they try to make him all the more human. Yet it also reveals him to be a bit of a nit-wit when it is pretty obvious that his hostage is working for someone else. In fact, nearly all the male characters are just awful people, including a DEA agent wanting to bust Lino. Even Anthony Mackie shows up for a few minutes as a man selling illegal artillery to the Mexican drug lord – and much like the rest of the cast, he has very little to work with.

miss bala gina rodriguez anthony mackie ismael cruz cordova catherine hardwicke gareth dunnet-alcocer action remake 2019 joblo.comVisually, there is nothing terribly interesting going on. Hardwicke manages to squeeze a little suspense during a scene or two, but for the most part there is nothing terribly unique or interesting about the directing style. Nowadays, we see plenty of extreme violence, even in a PG-13 rated feature. In fact, it’s likely that you will see far more intense action sequences on television than you will  here. One shoot-out involving the DEA and Lino only offers mild suspense, then it quickly turns ridiculous when they make one of the characters even more of an a-hole than he needed to be. It all leads to a final half hour that only leaves a minor impression, aside from it being preposterously predictable and dumb.

The one reason to see MISS BALA is Gina Rodriguez. The actress is given very little to do, yet manages to at least bring her natural charm to Gloria. Strangely, she is given very little backstory or anything else while we learn a whole lot about the man who took her hostage. Cordova is quite good as the “sensitive” drug lord and vicious murderer, but the relationship between he and Gloria still doesn't feel very truthful. Sadly, nearly every character here is terrible or vile on some level so it’s hard to get too invested into the action. It also doesn’t help that the PG-13 keeps the on-screen bloodbath feeling like something you’d see on CSI or another television crime drama. This is a forgettable remake that is only mildly enjoyable while you are watching it. For that hour and forty minutes or so I was slighly amused, but the second you leave the theatre you’ll find that the movie won’t leave much of an impression.

Miss Bala



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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.