A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

“MISS BALA” Rated PG-13 Bringing a new perspective to a remake, director Catherine Hardwicke’s “Miss Bala” is a reimagining of an acclaimed 2011 Mexican film of the same title.

Not having seen the original, this review is regrettably unable to make any comparisons. Nevertheless, there’s an intriguing element to “Miss Bala” that may well revive interest in the source material.
Known for the “Jane the Virgin” television series, Gina Rodriguez stars in the leading role as Gloria.

Here she is suddenly thrust squarely into the dangerous world of cross-border crime. An American of Mexican descent, Gloria is a makeup artist who travels from Los Angeles to Tijuana to visit her close friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) to help her win the Miss Baja California beauty pageant.

Suzu persuades Gloria to attend a pre-pageant event at a swanky nightclub, at which Suzu hopes to network with officials and power brokers that could enhance her chances at taking home the winner’s sash and the prize money.

The party is where the trouble starts. While in the ladies room, Gloria is confronted by armed thugs from a drug cartel who shoot up the nightclub in an attempted hit on a corrupt government official.
During the melee, Gloria is separated from Suzu, who goes missing without a trace. After a long night of a vigil in a café, Gloria seeks the help of a local cop who turns her over to a bunch of tattooed bad guys.

Ending up face-to-face with cartel honcho Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), Gloria becomes a hostage forced to do the bidding of Lino and his gang as a condition of getting help to find Suzu.
The so-called favor involves Gloria’s unwitting participation in a heinous crime that results in severe repercussions when American DEA agent Brian Reich (Matt Lauria) threatens her with years in prison if she doesn’t become a mole in Lino’s organization.

An interesting dynamic takes shape in the Stockholm syndrome that causes Gloria to develop a psychological alliance with Lino as a survival strategy during captivity. Sexual tension hangs in the air but nothing comes of it.

The tenuous bond between Lino and his captive is that both of them have identities that transcend the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Lino was once an immigrant living in Bakersfield and Gloria, an American citizen, was born in Mexico.

Both the DEA and Lino string Gloria along to do their respective bidding. Caught between two opposing forces, Gloria makes the dangerous trek to and from San Diego to transport cash and contraband.
More than once, Gloria has to take cover during shootouts between the cartel and law enforcement. In a climactic scene, Gloria, who has been courageous yet skittish, summons up her inner action heroine.
Plot twists abound in “Miss Bala,” and there are enough action thrills in the violent showdowns to keep the pace spirited enough to be entertaining. But the best feature is Gloria’s eventual empowerment to outsmart all sides.

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