Miss Bala is an interesting film, a movie far superior in execution and style than it is in detail and any self-contained logic. For those wishing that action thrillers would nowadays somehow manage to still throw viewers right into the thick of the action without resorting to the queasy “shaky-cam” . . . . . . . . Miss Bala is for you.
Stephanie Sigman plays Laura Guerrero, a young woman who just wants to enter a beauty pageant but who finds herself most definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time as she witnesses a number of people being gunned down at the Millenium club. Of course, the fact that she isn’t killed shows that she actually isn’t all that unlucky but fortunes are decidedly mixed when she catches the attention of gang leader, Lino Valdez (Noe Hernandez). Laura soon finds herself being used as a very dangerous pawn in a violent battle between criminals and the police.
Miss Bala is the kind of film that impresses you greatly, despite the fact that you might not realise it until the end credits roll. It doesn’t go out of the way to amaze you with style or violence or trickery but it tells a story worth telling in an enthralling and wonderfully fluid manner. I won’t lie and try to tell you that I was engrossed from start to finish – some points weren’t as clearly made as they could have been and some moments here and there seemed like terrible, and almost unbelievable, character choices – but I was always involved at some level, whether with the characters or just the slick camerawork weaving through a variety of set-pieces, from the main beauty pageant to a shoot-out in the street to horrific moments of sudden violence.
Stephanie Sigman is very good in the lead role, playing a character very much a victim of circumstance who withstands everything with surprising strength and calm. Noe Hernandez is equally good as Lino, his character may be the villain of the piece but he manages to be both loathsome and yet also strangely likeable in the way he decides to involve Laura and protect her while he looks after his own interests. Everyone else onscreen does well but the movie is really about the journey that takes Laura and puts her on a course with Lino.
Director Gerardo Naranjo, who co-wrote the script with Mauricio Katz, does an excellent job of giving audiences a movie that provides just a glimpse into the big business of drug-related crime in Mexico. He manages to keep things balanced between the cinematic and the harsh realities facing people in Mexico day after day. Which is an impressive feat. He may not make a great movie while trying to mix all of the elements into a palatable concoction, but he makes a very good one. A film that deserves to be seen and deserves to find a decent audience in the home entertainment market.
Miss Bala hits the DVD catwalk on February 20th and is certainly worth a watch. No extras but the film itself is presented in fine condition, and the subtitling seems spot on for the majority of the movie.
DIRECTOR: GERARDO NARANJO
WRITER: GERARDO NARANJO, MAURICIO KATZ
STARS: STEPHANIE SIGMAN, NOE HERNANDEZ, IRENE AZUELA, JOSE YENQUE, JAMES RUSSO, MIGUEL COUTURIER
RUNTIME: 113 MINS APPROX