It has been a slow few weeks at the movies lately. Going into this weekend, I thought I was going to have to finally see The Kid Who Would Be King. However, one of my goals with this blog is to try to review movies that have most recently arrived in theaters, and (for better or worse) Miss Bala was the more current choice.
Sigh. So Miss Bala stars Gina Rodriguez as Gloria, an ambitious, young Hollywood make-up artist who decides to spend the weekend in Tijuana to help her friend win the Miss Baja California beauty pageant. From there, she ends up getting mixed-up in the seedy underworld of border wars over drug trafficking and corrupt law enforcement. Along the way she has to tread a very fine line between pleasing her gang of captors, led by Lino (Ismael Cruz Córdova), and the hard-nosed Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers in the form of Brian Reich (Matt Lauria). It is a seemingly no-win situation, though I will give Gloria credit for staying true to just wanting to find her kidnapped friend (Suzu – Cristina Rodlo). Very Christian of her.
This all seems pretty straight forward. Yet where the absurdity comes is in the fact that the story kept coming back to the Miss Baja California contest. You are going along with Gloria, hoping that she finds a way out of her situation (more about that later) and not really wanting to fulfill her captor’s demands, and then Miss Bala inexplicably brings us back to this beauty pageant. The plot comes up with a reason for it, but I found it laughable and not really worth commenting on it. Call it a desire to not want to spoil the movie?
Luckily there was nothing too objectionable, content wise, in Miss Bala, which was something I was worried about going into it. That was helped by the fact that it was rated PG-13. What I did have a problem with, though, was the running theme throughout the film: that you do anything you have to in order to survive. Life is about more than mere survival, and while finding her friend was of the utmost concern for Gloria, she also participated in drug trafficking and committed outright murder to do so. I found myself wanting her to simply turn herself in (and scratching my head as to why Agent Reich would not believe her story as to how she ended up in her predicament). Granted, her friend would probably have been killed had she done so, but neither her or (more importantly) the audience knew that would have been a possibility until nearly the end of the movie. Maybe I am too much of a Catholic school boy, but doing the right thing, while sometimes difficult, is ultimately not as messy as Hollywood would tell you. Then again, even I know (unlike Gloria, who supposedly came from Tijuana) that things are different down there across the border.