REVIEW: ‘Miss Bala’ calls for continued women empowerment
Heroine in action-filled Hollywood remake signifies power of female dominance.
The 2019 remake of the Mexican thriller “Miss Bala” (2011) takes on a PG-13 demonstration of a woman understanding how to use her authority to assert dominance.
Although “Miss Bala” (2019) was dubbed by Rolling Stone as a “a string of narrative clichés and pro forma character development” — and has a 24 percent on the Tomatometer — the film offers an alternative view on how stereotypical gender roles hold the heroine back from being able to wield the power she has.
Gina Rodriguez, known for her role in “Jane the Virgin,” stars as Gloria Fuentes, a Mexican-American makeup artist living in Los Angeles. She travels from LA to her home in Tijuana to help her childhood best friend, Suzu, win a Miss Baja beauty competition. However, during what was supposed to be a fun night at a club, many women are taken hostage as a result of a gang bust.
Leaving the theater after watching the movie felt unsatisfying; loose ends did not seem to be tied together, and the characters were flatter than expected and questions were left unanswered.
But the club scene, as well as other moments throughout the film, seemed to trigger a recurring thought: a trend of male dominance and female vulnerability within the narrative.
As the film progresses, the women who were kidnapped at the gang bust are sold into the trafficking system. After barely escaping the club, Gloria realizes Suzu is missing. She reaches out to a cop only to discover he is on the dirty side of the law and gives her over to the gang, La Estrella, that originally shot up the club.
In these two instances, the women don’t seem to grasp that they do not need to rely on men in order to get what they want.
Within the gang’s custody, Gloria is forced to find her place in La Estrella and give herself up to the system. This plays into the film’s depiction of the heroine appearing timid and defenseless, up until her false reality is broken.
Gloria gathers the courage to seek the help of a DEA official who claims they will help her if she returns the favor. But things take a sharp turn when only the official reaps the benefits of their deal. Once again, Gloria finds herself in the familiar position of powerlessness.
Gloria wants out of the system and seeks help, yet men on all sides of the law fail her. The greater theme pushes the audience to recognize the need for Gloria to understand she has the competence to fend for herself. The fact that it takes the heroine so long to comprehend this raises the stomach-turning question of how women view themselves.
As one may have guessed, Gloria weaves her way through this trivial mess. In the midst of her plan, the gang leader tries to persuade Gloria to sleep with his gang rival so he can get him alone and ultimately kill him, which makes Gloria just another pawn in a male game of chess.
However, Gloria finally becomes the antihero by killing off the gang members one by one — all in a red dress and pumps. She is also able to save Suzu.
Gloria sought help on multiple occasions throughout the movie without realizing she was fully capable of getting it done by herself. Only toward the end did she realize the sole way out of the drug prison was her own strength, perseverance and intelligence.
While “Miss Bala” (2019) may not have been received well by critics, the familiar message of female empowerment takes on a different meaning within the context of the remake. The film highlights the importance of women familiarizing themselves with the extent of their power and their ability to enforce it. Gloria Fuentes did just that.