After agreeing to go along with her friend to a try-out for a beauty pageant, Laura (Stephanie Sigman) then finds herself at a club upon which a Mexican gang descends. Several people wind up dead and Laura finds herself co-opted into the gang, being drawn further and further into Mexico’s criminal underworld.


Critically lauded on its theatrical release and presented as Mexico’s official entry for the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Miss Bala is not without appeal and has some undoubtedly impressive elements and sequences, but it never seems to coalesce into a satisfying whole.

The film revolves around Sigman’s affecting debut performance and frequently lingers on her dispassionate face. She is a thoroughly sympathetic character, pulled unwillingly into being a courier and also being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, but her expressionless visage eventually has a distancing effect, instead of drawing us into her pitiable plight.

It is every inch her film and other characters remain superficially rendered. Those more willingly involved with the gang are sign-posted as the villains of the piece and they are shown to be suitably, if predictably unpleasant and vicious. Although it is generally laudable for a film to avoid clunky exposition and hackneyed plot devices, here we find another issue at play, no less problematic, namely that too often it is unclear what is happening, where and why. Mexico is realistically and compelling evoked, but the narrative is muddy where it needs to be propulsive and crisp.

Well enough acted and engagingly written, this in the end falls short of being the masterpiece many have heralded it to be. It has some interesting points to make about the pervasive destruction wrought by gang and drug wars in Mexico and the frequency of collateral damage inflicted on innocents, but these are points that have been better and certainly more compellingly made before. Not a bad film by any means, but a bit of a disappointment after all of the hype. You can catch Miss Bala on DVD from 20th February.


Extras: None available for review.

[yframe url=’’]