Rated: PG-13
Release Date: 02/01/2019
Production Company: Sony Pictures Releasing

Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie and Ismael Cruz Córdova.

Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Producers: Pablo Cruz, Shayda Frost, Tita Lombardo and Kevin Misher. Executive Producers: Catherine Hardwicke, Garet Dunnet-Alcocer, Andy Berman, Maurico Katz, Jamie Marshall, Samson Mucke, Gerardo Naranjo and Arturo Sampson. Screenwriter: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer. Cinematographer: Patrick Murguia.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

If you’re willing to suspend disbelief a bit, “Miss Bala” is actually a satisfying action thriller thanks largely to its lead stars Gina Rodriguez (“Deepwater Horizon” and TV’s “Jane the Virgin”) and Ismael Cruz Cordova.

Truth be told, I’d love to see Rodriguez and Cordova in some other movies because they have such a fiery, chemistry here. But, make no mistake; “Miss Bala” isn’t a romantic love story.

Actually, the original Spanish-language movie, “Miss Bala”—which I haven’t seen—is loosely based on a 2008 incident involving a Mexican model and beauty queen named Laura Zuniga. She was arrested for allegedly working in cahoots with some drug traffickers and gang members near Jalisco, Mexico.

That film, debuted to appreciative audiences at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. It was also the Mexican entry for the” Best Foreign Language Film” at the 84th Academy Awards, but didn’t make the final cut.

In this remake of “Miss Bala,” from director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight” and “Thirteen”) and screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (“Contrapelo”), Rodriguez stars as Gloria Fuentes, a talented makeup artist who works in Los Angeles.

Gloria's boss is a jerk and she’s fed up with his snarky comments. As she’s leaving an LA Fashion Week event, Gloria takes a couple of high end cosmetic bags.

They aren’t for her. She’s driving down to her hometown of Tijuana to give the swag bags to her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo, TV’s “The Terror” and “Too Old to Die Young”) who lives there with her cute, little brother Chava (Sebastian Cano, TV’s “Fear the Walking Dead”).

Suzu is gearing up to enter the Miss Baja beauty pageant. Having a friend like Gloria hook up her look is an added bonus.

Gloria and Suzu have a lot of catching up to do. They decide to have some fun and head to a pre-pageant party that a local nightclub is hosting.

No sooner than they stake out a spot and settle in with their cocktails, chaos erupts inside the club.

Tijuana's Las Estrellas drug cartel and its leader, Lino Esperanza (an outstanding Ismael Cruz Cordova, TV’s “The Catch” and “Ray Donovan”) come in hard and shoot up the place. Lino and his boys are after Police Chief Saucedo (Damian Alcazar, TV’s “Narcos”). Shortly after the mayhem, they kidnap Gloria and suddenly Suzu is nowhere to be found.

Fortunately, Lino is extremely attracted to Gloria and kind of protects her. He promises her that he’ll find Suzu and take care of Chava too.

Over time, Gloria has little choice except to fall in line with Lino’s requests of smuggling guns, money, drugs and catering to some of his other desires.

Things, become even more dangerous for Gloria when Lino’s associates, Poyo (Ricardo Abarca, TV’s “Besieged”) and Jimmy (an underused Anthony Mackie, “The Hate U Give”) grow increasingly suspicious of her and when she’s asked by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, (Matt Lauria, upcoming “Shaft”) to help them take Lino and his cartel down.

Realizing she may never get out of this alive, Gloria is forced to find strength and resolve she never imagined. It’s amazing what you can do sometimes when your back is against the wall. Gloria outsmarts and outmaneuvers Lino as well as the DEA to gain her freedom.

Gina Rodriguez showed she was pretty tough stuff in last year’s sci-fi/horror drama, “Annihilation.” With “Miss Bala,” she elevates her game once again.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.

Take A Look At This Trailer For "MISS BALA"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Brian's Song Title: Brian's Song
Year Released: 1971
Running Time: 90
Production Company: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Director of Photography: Joseph F. Biroc
Screenwriter: Gale Sayers, Al Silverman and William Blinn
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: This Review Reprinted In Honor Of Movie Critic Bill Gibron--May 14, 1961--May 11, 2018. Pictured Top Left.

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