Rodriguez’s ‘Miss Bala’ film falls short from 2011 remake


Jacob Ford, Movie Reviewer

Score: 4.7/10

Gina Rodriguez’s action movie debut “Miss Bala” leaves viewers spying for a different flick. The 2011 Mexican remake didn’t live up to its expectations even with the help from Rodriguez and the

“Miss Bala” is a direct remake of the 2011 Mexican film of the same name, and it truly is a remake. Little of the story is changed — this is simply the version where all the bilingual characters speak mostly English.

So, if you’re going to watch ‘Miss Bala’, watch the Mexican film.

Miss Bala tells the story of a makeup artist learning she’s good at being a spy. Gloria Fuentes, played by Gina Rodriguez, is an ambitious Californian makeup artist who road trips to Tijuana to do makeup for her best friend, Suzu, played by Cristina Rodlo, who is competing in the annual Miss Baja California beauty pageant.

A few days before the competition, Gloria and Suzu are at a club when a drug gang bursts in to assassinate the chief of police. Unable to find Suzu, Gloria makes it out alive, only to be kidnapped by the gang. The gang’s leader, Lino, played by Ismael Cruz Cordova, locks his eyes on Gloria, and begins testing her, determined to make her his “queen.” Gloria discovers a special set of skills, survives and searches for Suzu.

On every advertisement for Rodriguez is center stage and occupies probably 90 percent of the screen time. A lot of this film banked on Rodriguez’s performance, and I’d like to say she made the best of it, but frankly, the opposite is true.

This is a good role for an actor—there’s a whole lot of development her character undergoes, and constant, high-dial emotion through which her character evolves. So, while it’s a good role, it’s also a really hard role. Rodriguez only gets halfway.

The end result of the character is that Rodriguez masters her inner secret agent skills and cold-hard stoicness. In performing the character, Rodriguez accelerated to this aspect of the character much too quickly, killing that aspect of a movie.

It’s fun to watch an everyday person become an action movie character, and Rodriguez made that aspect of the film so brief, we practically miss it. Miss Bala was undoubtedly shot out of sequence, making this an even harder role to play, and Rodriguez just couldn’t keep up.

Rodriguez’s performance was a key component in making Miss Bala anything more than a cheap action flick. And since Rodriguez was unable to deliver, a cheap action flick is all we were left with. Miss Bala is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, a director best known for The Nativity Story and the first “Twilight” film.

My immediate tendency when hearing that information is to say “Miss Bala” is “still better than “Twilight,” but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. The film is riddled with unnecessary scenes and meaningless characters, and inches to develop on a problematic romance that ultimately has no payoff.

The problem with each and every one of the directorial and narrative drawbacks in “Miss Bala” is that nearly all of them would have been redeemed if the character of Gloria had been well-developed. Had this been the case, the climax of the film would have been exciting, mind-blowing, and Gloria could become the next James Bond.

But since she wasn’t, mostly due to Rodriguez’s struggle with the character, but also because of Hardwicke’s failure to recognize that something wasn’t working, the ending is force-fed and loses nearly all its excitement.

It’s unfortunate to see such a well-concepted story and film fall so flat, particularly on the back of its lead actor, but that’s exactly what happened.

Rodriguez is a fantastic actress; her comedy work on “Jane the Virgin” is excellent and her character in last year’s “Annihilation” was a highlight of an already great movie.

But “Miss Bala” featured a role that Rodriguez simply couldn’t keep up with, and the film suffers as a result.