Metascore
80

Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Jan 19, 2012
    100
    A first-rate art-house thriller, Miss Bala tells the strange, seemingly impossible story of a Mexican beauty queen who becomes the accidental pawn of a drug cartel. It's an adventure story that could be called a contemporary picaresque if it weren't so deadly serious.
  2. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Jan 18, 2012
    100
    Loosely based on real events, this harrowing, superbly made drama by fast-rising filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo (I'm Gonna Explode) is Mexico's 2012 submission for Best Foreign Language Film - rightfully so.
  3. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Jan 25, 2012
    91
    Miss Bala toes a delicate line between exploitation movie and movie about exploitation, but that's part of what gives the film its charge - this isn't some flaccid docudrama about how the cartels are poisoning the country, it's a lively, white-knuckle thriller where any such proselytizing is reduced to implication.
  4. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jan 16, 2012
    91
    In each tense moment, Miss Bala has a lot to say in a few words.
  5. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Jan 20, 2012
    90
    What the film captures so effectively is the cultural reality of Mexico's ubiquitous underclass.
  6. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Jan 19, 2012
    90
    Miss Bala is a tragedy rendered with the savviest, moviewise virtuosity. A young woman's despair, and a nation's, was never so damned entertaining.
  7. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jan 19, 2012
    90
    Terrifically choreographed, violent and amoral, but never wantonly cruel, Miss Bala is a knockout.
  8. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jan 19, 2012
    80
    No beauty contest has ever been more bizarre than the one in Gerardo Naranjo's shockingly powerful thriller.
  9. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Jan 17, 2012
    80
    There's a wild, "Miami Blues"–like dreaminess to the movie that's addictive. If anything, it shows up exactly what "Little Miss Sunshine" lacked: plenty of ammo.
  10. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Oct 10, 2011
    80
    Fast and dangerous, Miss Bala is a hair-raising actioner.
  11. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Oct 10, 2011
    80
    With the blistering firecracker that is Miss Bala, next-gen Mexican director and AFI grad Gerardo Naranjo delivers on the promise of such well-respected early pics as "Drama/Mex" and "I'm Gonna Explode," revealing them as dry runs for this "Scarface"-scary depiction of south-of-the-border crime run amok.
  12. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Jan 26, 2012
    75
    Bala, by the way, means "bullet." Laura Zúñiga, the real-life beauty queen on whom the film is loosely based, was called "Miss Narco" in the Mexican press.
  13. Reviewed by: Loren King
    Jan 26, 2012
    75
    Miss Bala signals the rise of a director to watch, as Naranjo offers a grim subject with neither flash nor sentiment. It is a sober film done with style.
  14. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Jan 26, 2012
    75
    There are no good guys in Miss Bala, just bad guys of different stripes.
  15. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jan 13, 2012
    75
    Naranjo, a graduate of the American Film Institute, has a gift for staging action that defines character. The film is a harrowing experience. It cuts deep.
  16. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Oct 13, 2011
    75
    Naranjo keeps the action tense but understated; instead of allowing explosions and shootouts to pile up, he rations them in taut doses.
  17. Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
    Jan 17, 2012
    70
    The character is intentionally lightly drawn: Laura's suffering is symbolic, a surrogate for the suffering of a society helplessly caught in the crossfire.
  18. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jan 27, 2012
    67
    Miss Bala has been praised on the festival circuit for being a gritty look at the Mexican drug trade but too often it seemed like a bargain-bin "Scarface" to me.
  19. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jan 20, 2012
    63
    This strange and eerie noir is more a collection of knockout scenes than a fully realized story.
  20. Reviewed by: Vadim Rizov
    Jan 20, 2012
    60
    Gerardo Naranjo's fourth feature Miss Bala is one long slow burn with no final bang.
  21. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jan 19, 2012
    60
    While Sigman conveys a credible state of tense disbelief throughout, it's increasingly frustrating to watch Laura so passively accept her dire fate.
  22. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    Oct 24, 2011
    60
    That innocuous title disguises a Mexican thriller with genuine bite, though the hokey ending doesn't quite live up to the edgy plotting and Sigman's classy turn as a tough heroine in an impossible situation.
User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 16 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 7
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 7
  3. Negative: 2 out of 7
  1. Feb 18, 2012
    2
    This is a movie about a woman who gets wrapped up in a violent, oppressive drug gang and, in the words of another reviewer, "doesn't fight back . . . not even a little." The plot is indeed full of holes, as has been much noted (note a border crossing scene that defies logic), but the bigger problem is that there is not a single moment where our would-be heroine displays any sort of will, creativity, or strength of character--in short, anything that would make her tale worth watching or imbue it with the slightest bit of suspense. Instead, it is an ultimately monotonous tale of a prolonged, merciless assault on an ill-defined character who never has a chance and apparently wouldn't take it she had it. It's painful for her and painful for the audience, who is left with no suspense beyond seeing what awful fate will befall this hapless victim next--like watching a gritty, modern-day Perils of Pauline, but with no one to pull the would-be heroine off the railroad tracks. Realistic, perhaps; interesting, no. For contrast, see Maria Full of Grace, a movie with a similar concept--it's every bit as raw as Miss Bala but actually delivers some human drama. The real casualty here might be Stephanie Sigman, who plays the embattled victim. In the first scenes, her portrayal of a terrified, desperate woman is palpable and stirring. Sadly, she is forced by the script and the director to maintain that mode for the next 90 minutes. It felt like 180. Full Review »
  2. Oct 1, 2012
    7
    A damning indictment on the drugs trade in Mexico, this film highlights the plight of many that fall into the clutches of these gangs. I did enjoy the rough and ready style of filming; you really felt you were right in the heart of the action Full Review »
  3. May 18, 2012
    8
    Entertaining, enlightening ... brilliant.

    It's a '1st person' film, with an innocent protagonist, dragged through an ugly reality in much the
    same way as Alphonso Curion's 'Children of Men'. This is the 'Children of Men' of Mexico. Full Review »