Bandits German language.  Germany, 1997.  Rated R.  110 minutes.

Cast: Katja Riemann, Jasmin Tabatabai, Nicolette Krebitz, Jutta Hoffman, Hannes Jaenicke, Werner Schreyer, Andrea Sawatzki, Oliver Hasenfratz, Peter Sattman
Writers: Uwe Wilhelm & Katja von Garnier
Music: Udo Arndt, Volker Grippenstroh, Peter Weihe (score); Nicolette Krebitz, Katja Riemann, Jasmin Tabatabai (songs)
Cinematographer: Torsten Breuer
Producers: Harald Kügler, Elvira Senft, Molly von Fürstenberg
Director: Katja von Garnier

Grade: B Review by Alison Tweedie-Perry

Jasmin Tabatabai as Luna"C hicks and rock'n'roll--what could be better?" That was the response of my young, male, musician roommate when I invited him to see Bandits with me. I was slightly more skeptical; visions of Spice World (imagined, for, thankfully, I was never subjected to the actual film) danced in my head. Fortunately, this film is anything but Spice World. It is a healthy melange of several other films, though. It's A Hard Day's Night with chicks who happen to be felons, it's Thelma and Louise meets The Legend of Billie Jean with guitars, and it's one long advertisement for MTV Deutschland. And, being all those things, and being them well, it kicks ass. Nicolette Krebitz as Angel

There aren't enough good-time chick movies out there. Sure, there's plenty of conventional "chick flicks," films about death and relationships that are guaranteed to give you a good ten-hanky experience. But there are far too few movies that make you walk out of the theater saying "chicks rock!" Until now.

Bandits is a fun, rollicking movie from Germany about four women in a prison rock band. They break out almost by accident and seize their freedom. The headstrong lead singer Luna (played by Iranian/German Jasmin Tabatabai), outraged that two male jailbreakers are getting all the attention, sets up a publicity shoot with a local reporter. Of course, the result is a musicKatja Reimann as Emma video that gets folks all over the country interested in the free-spirited jailbirds. Sensing money, the record exec who turned down their tape is digging through the trash to recover it. As the women go about trying to leave the country, they discover their song on the radio and their burgeoning stardom. We follow their quest for freedom where it leads. Apparently, it leads directly into scenes from Fame, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and countless music videos. But that's okay. What Bandits lacks in groundbreaking storyline, it makes up for in solid execution and heaps of fun.

There are some deeper issues to be explored in Bandits--the bonds between women, how far one should go for one's art, the nature of crime and punishment--but when you've got such cool chicks playing rockin' tunes in stagey, yet entertaining music-video set pieces, you're probably better off leaving the deep analysis alone and just having a good time. Bandits enjoy freedom

Released in Germany in 1997, Bandits was a huge hit in its home country and spawned the top-selling movie soundtrack ever. This is more remarkable considering that the actresses all wrote and performed the music in the movie--and it's pretty good. Once you take peek at the actresses' credentials, it makes sense. Jasmin Tabatabai is primarily a musician in fact, and all the others have a good bit of musical training. The music crosses many different styles and is almost all sung in English, including covers of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do."

The movie has its problems. The plot is hackneyed, the lead-ins to the music-video breaks are obvious, and you think the film is about to end three separate times, which can create a false sense of drag. However, one pretty much goes into this kind of movie--as one would to a typical action or other formula movie--knowing what to expect. Within the context of those expectations, Bandits hits it.

Don't get the idea that Bandits is only a movie that women will enjoy. My aforementioned 21-year-old, future-rock-god-guitarist-roommate-boy held the same opinion after he'd seen it as he did before he'd seen it: "Chicks and rock'n'roll--what could be better?" What indeed?

Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1998-1999 Stratosphere Entertainment.