BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
APRIL 15, 2012
Loosely based on an actual occurrence, “Miss Bala,” a Spanish foreign film, depicts the life of a fictitious young woman, Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman), as she enters a beauty pageant. As she celebrates at a club with her friend that night, the club gets raided by a local gang. She escapes, but when her friend goes missing, Laura has no choice but to go to the police, who bring her in front of the gang leader.
The perspective stays loyal to Laura, with a gang versus police backdrop constantly occurring behind her. The gang leader involves her in their business, first as a getaway driver and then as a money mule. In turn, he enters her into the beauty pageant, and, due to her new gang affiliates, she wins the pageant.
The cinematography in “Miss Bala” is striking. When Laura becomes involved in a shoot-out between the gang members and the police, several impressive long takes are employed. Also, with some crafty camerawork, layers are created to truly bring to life how chaotic the city around Laura has become, with Laura often in the foreground, the gang action in the middle ground, and the city in the background. Several times you experience these layers, each as memorable as the next.
Though the supporting actors are often inconsistent, Stephanie Sigman successfully garners all attention with her gorgeous figure and realistic reactions to the world around her. Her guttural responses come off natural, and thanks to her grounded performance, the film never entirely veers off course.
“Miss Bala” offers plenty of what is promised in its advertising while never quite reaching a level of complete perfection or originality. There is something in both the cinematography and Stephanie Sigman’s performance that keeps the film fresh and exciting, but the film lacks a “wow” factor to completely separate it from any other foreign language gang-related film.
January 20, 2012
20th Century Fox
(for language, some brutal violence and sexuality)
Juan Carlos Galván