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Bandits ***

Rated PG-13 for language, violence and containing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Joe (Bruce Willis) and Terry (Billy Bob Thornton) are the ruthless, the maniacal Sleep Over Bandits. One is a devoted hypochondriac. The other is a no-nonsense extremist in desperate need of anger management. Put them together and you get a duo that would do Felix Unger and Oscar Madison proud.

The movie's name? "Bandits" -- took a record-breaking .65 seconds to think of.

The night before a robbery, Joe and Terry sneak into the bank manager's house to kidnap him. Then together they watch MTV, do each other's nails and make prank calls into the wee hours of the night. The next morning, the three of them pile into the car, drive to the bank and grab the cash, all before it opens for the day, no fuss, no muss. Brilliant! you may exclaim.

But they hadn't planned for one obvious problem, namely getting nailed by Queen Elizabeth II's car.

Enter Cate Blanchett, who plays Kate, a bored and neglected housewife who is also technically not sane. After attempting to disprove the two-objects-cannot-occupy-the-same-space theory using Terry and her Mazda Miata, Kate kidnaps the poor dope and demands that they allow her into their club.

Also along for the ride is a hitchhiker with supernatural qualities, a Geraldo wannabe and an unemployed stunt man, which we learn is an invaluable asset; I encourage everybody to get at least one.

Right from the get-go we are introduced to the harsh reality that our two leads will perish in a shootout with themselves during an ambitious bank robbery at some point in the film. This means one of three things. A: They will perish, B: They will not perish or C: None of the above.

The first half of "Bandits" is presented in a way that makes the second half all too predictable. The movie does manage to balance this with quirky, sporadic humor, some of which is downright memorable. Most of this is delivered by Thornton, which is the least he could do since he subjected so many unfortunate souls to "Pushing Tin." There is also a secondary plot of a love triangle between Joe, Terry and Kate. This is the way it remains because she can't decide whom she likes better and everyone is OK with this. Kate is my hero.

The foreseeable finale and the movie's obsessive preoccupation with bad '80s rock ballads drag the movie down but the characters are crammed full of substance which buoys the film into the "not bad" category.

The Message: The difference between a bank robber and a screenwriter -- Lesson One. By coming up with a brilliant bank-robbing scheme, both become rich. But the robber uses this idea to break the law by actually robbing the bank. The screenwriter sells the idea and makes money legally, if you consider $8 movie tickets legal.

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