In Miss Bala, Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez), a makeup artist struggling to leave her mark, is your average everyday woman. When she heads to Tijuana, Mexico, to do her friend Suzu’s (Cristina Rodlo) makeup for a beauty pageant, the two go out for a night of partying.
While Gloria is freshening up in the women’s washroom, several men break in through the vents. Armed with guns, the men find Gloria and threaten to kill her, but their leader, Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), decides to let her go. Leaving the washroom, Gloria attempts to find Suzu before chaos erupts, but as gunfire begins, lighting up the club, the two are separated.
When Suzu is nowhere to be found, Gloria tries to get help aid from a police officer, but is instead given up to the local gang the Estrellas instead, where she is coerced into helping them with their operation in return for their help in finding Suzu. Gloria now finds herself in an impossible situation with only herself to rely on to get out of it.
Miss Bala is the latest entry in Hollywood remakes of foreign films. As often is the case, when adapting foreign material for a newer and domestic audience, many things get lost in translation. With this film, writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer’s screenplay feels a little too simplified in its approach. What is essentially a film about survival in an impossible situation for a woman, is instead morphed into an origins story for a would-be action hero… except the whole point of the film is that Gloria isn’t trying to be a hero.
This need to push the story into an empowering tale of triumph over adversity finds it going from predictable beat to predictable beat. Catherine Hardwicke‘s direction, while solid, often looks to glamorize the events, rather than depicting it for what it is: a down and dirty reality that isn’t pretty. This approach is highlighted by the film’s money shot of Gina Rodriguez, in her sultry red dress, walking through a villa with assault rifle in hand.
Rodriguez’s performance in this film is committed and she plays the role of Gloria really well. Her character’s timidity and sheepish nature fit into her natural appeal. She is instantly a character we can identify with and root for because she doesn’t look like an action star — she looks like an everyday person who handles her situation in a very natural way. Everything about her performance fits and the situation she finds herself in sows the seeds of the sympathy that we should feel for her.
Unfortunately Rodriguez doesn’t have anyone to play those strengths off of. As a woman on her own with very little help, a majority of her scenes with other characters involve men, none of whose scenes and performances are particularly memorable or convincing.
The scene meant to depict Gloria taking control of her own situation through the use of a firearm comes off as a fable and power fantasy, as if that is all it took to solve her problem.
A female-led film starring a person of color in the post-#MeToo era could have been something special had the writer truly understood what made Gloria a strong character. Gina Rodriguez does her best with what she’s given, and she delivers a solid performance. ~Paolo Maquiraya
Feature Commentary with Director Catherine Hardwicke, Executive Producer Jamie Marshall, and Associate Producer Shayda Frost – Commentary track played over the film where Hardwicke and her producers.
Gina: The Strength of a Woman – Featurette in which cast, crew, and Gina Rodriguez herself discuss her character, role and strength in the film.
The Bigger the Bang – Featurette in which cast and crew, namely stunt coordinator Justin Yu, discuss the film’s various action set pieces.
Making of Miss Bala – Featurette discussing the idea of remaking the original 2011 Mexican film, but coming from the perspective of an American going back to Mexico.
Wardrobe Tests with Commentary by Director Catherine Hardwicke – Featurette that has unused pre-production and production footage of the various cast members in prototype costuming with commentary from director Catherine Hardwicke where she breaks down the creative decisions that went into the look of the cast.
Action Rehearsal with Commentary by Director Catherine Hardwicke – Featurette that has unused pre-production and production footage of the cast and crew rehearsing the film’s big action set piece with commentary from director Catherine Hardwicke in which she breaks down the planning and filming of the sequence.
Deleted & Extended Scenes