Bandit (Canada, 2022)

September 23, 2022
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Bandit Poster

In a bygone era, something like Bandit would have been a TV movie of the week. All these years later, it retains the look and feel of something not quite “theatrical” in its ambitions. If it has any future as a streaming rental, such hopes likely reside in Mel Gibson’s name continuing to wield some clout (although Gibson is mostly “rehabilitated,” his time as a marquee name is past). However, the former Martin Riggs has only a supporting role; the lead belongs to Josh Duhamel, whose easygoing charisma represents a reason to see Bandit. Although technically a “thriller,” this is almost more of a dramedy focused on the unlikely exploits of a bank robber. There’s no body count; in fact, no one suffers a serious injury. The movie’s reason for being is that it’s based on a true story. One supposes that, if this was fiction, it wouldn’t be deemed compelling enough to attract the necessary budget. (There are in excess of 50 producers, co-producers, and executive producers with the latter category comprising most of the names.)

Canadian filmmaker Allan Ungar (Gridlocked), working from Kraig Wenman’s adaptation of Robert Knuckle’s “The Flying Bandit,” seeks to present a fictionalized version of the life and times of Gilbert Galvan Jr., one the most successful bank robbers in the history of Canada (he pulled 59 consecutive jobs – a record that still stands). The movie opens in 1984 with Galvan (Josh Duhamel) escaping from a minimum security prison in Michigan and heading north across the border. While in Canada, he establishes a new identity as Robert Whiteman and begins robbing banks as a means of securing income. He learns that bank security guards aren’t armed and the tellers are told to follow the robber’s instructions even if they include not putting a dye pack in with the money and not hitting the silent alarm.

While staying at a shelter in Ottawa, Galvan becomes involved with Andrea Hudson (Elisha Cuthbert). The two move in together and, once Andrea confesses that she’s pregnant, Galvan decides to ask her to marry him. Meanwhile, as his bank robbing becomes more lucrative, he approaches local fencer and all-around bigwig Tommy Kay (Gibson) for financial backing. But Galvan is beginning to attract attention, most notably from John Snydes (Nestor Carbonnell), a policeman whose dogged persistence puts him on a collision course with Canada’s most wanted bank robber.

Bandit goes down easily with the breezy first 70 minutes occasionally reaching effervescent peaks. The chemistry between Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert bubbles. Mel Gibson steps away from the heavies he has been playing of late and reaches back into his past to play the part of a likeable rogue. We haven’t seen this Gibson in decades. Ultimately, the movie runs a little too long and the inevitability of the final half-hour brings it down. The problem with telling a true story like this is that the ending is written in stone and there’s nothing the screenplay can do about it. The term “anticlimax” comes to mind.

One of the problems with Bandit is that a majority of Galvan’s robberies are skimmed over. A pleasure of many caper-based movies is enjoying the intricacies that go into the planning and execution of the robberies. There’s only a little of that here; it’s not the focus. Also, because so little effort is invested in staging the heists, there’s not much in the way of tension or suspense. The pacing is too leisurely and, although Ungar is invested in telling Galvan’s story and fleshing out the man behind the dubious legend, there are times when it feels like he’s bypassing a more intense rendition of the same basic story. Bandit offers more of a diversion than an experience.

Bandit (Canada, 2022)

Director: Allan Ungar
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Elisha Cuthbert, Mel Gibson, Nestor Carbonnell
Screenplay: Kraig Wenman, based on the book by Robert Knuckle
Cinematography: Alexander Chinnici
Music: Aaron Gilhuis
U.S. Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Run Time: 2:06
U.S. Release Date: 2022-09-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Brief Nudity)
Genre: Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1