Troy Garity, Bruce Willis, ...
Credit: Bandits: Richard Cartwright

No, Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed aren’t back behind the wheel of their black Trans Am battling wits with poor ol’ Smokey. These bandits are Joe and Terry — a pair of comically mismatched escaped cons who plan to finance south-of-the-border lives of leisure by tearing off on a bank-robbing spree down the West Coast.

As far as the odd couple analogy goes, Willis’ Joe is a suave ladies’ man (think Willis in ”Moonlighting”), while Thornton’s Terry is a brainy hypochondriac (think Thornton in real life). ”Terry’s got a lot of different phobias,” says Thornton, ”So I didn’t have to do any research.” One of Thornton’s actual neuroses was actually written into the script after he got the part — his fear of antique furniture: ”It goes pretty deep. I don’t know what it is — past-life deal? The couple of times I’ve been on a movie set where they have creepy old s—, I can’t eat and I have a hard time breathing. It’s no joke.”

Despite their status as America’s most wanted criminals, Joe and Terry aren’t such bad guys. For example, says Thornton, ”They’ll spend the night with the bank president and then just go to work with him in the morning and hold the place up. They’re not out to hurt anybody. They’re like Robin Hood — but the difference is these guys are just robbing from the rich [and giving to themselves].”

Things go from simple to complicated when they take on a third partner in crime — a Bonnie Tyler fan (Blanchett) running away from her disinterested husband. Lovestruck Joe wants her to settle down with them, but of course she can’t decide which half of the odd couple she fancies more. ”Cate has this great line to Billy Bob and Bruce,” says producer David Hoberman. ”’Together you’re the perfect man.”’ Adds Thornton, who compares Blanchett to Katharine Ross’ character in ”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” ”Frankly, Terry’s too busy sniffling and itching to think too much about it. To him paradise is just going to be a place without antique furniture.”

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