gangster | movie reviews

In a bygone era, something like Bandit would have been TV movie of the week. All these years later, it retains the appearance of something less than “theatrical” in its ambitions. If he has a future as a streaming rental, such hopes likely lie in the fact that Mel Gibson’s name continues to wield some influence (although Gibson is largely “rehabilitated”, his time as that renowned name is over). However, former Martin Riggs only has a supporting role; the main role belongs to Josh Duhamel, whose laid-back charisma is a reason to see Bandit. Although technically a “thriller”, it’s almost more of a comedy-drama focusing on the unlikely exploits of a bank robber. There is no body count; in fact, no one was seriously injured. The film‘s raison d’être is that it is based on a true story. It is assumed that, if it were fiction, it would not be considered compelling enough to attract the necessary budget. (There are more than 50 producers, co-producers and executive producers, with the latter category comprising most of the names.)

Canadian filmmaker Allan Ungar (blocked), 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 of the world’s most famous bank robbers. most successful in Canadian history (he cut 59 consecutive jobs – a record that still stands). The film opens in 1984 with Galvan (Josh Duhamel) escaping from a Michigan minimum-security prison and heading north across the border. While in Canada, he establishes a new identity as Robert Whiteman and begins robbing banks to secure an income. He learns that the bank’s security guards are unarmed and that the tellers must follow the thief’s instructions even if they include not putting dye with the money and not setting off the silent alarm.

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

Bandit descends easily with the breezy first 70 minutes sometimes reaching effervescent peaks. The chemistry between Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert is bubbling. Mel Gibson is stepping away from the heavyweights he’s been playing lately and stepping back into his past to play the role of a likeable thug. We haven’t seen this Gibson in decades. In the end, the movie lasts a bit too long, and the inevitability of the last half hour brings it down. The problem with telling a true story like this is that the ending is set in stone and the script can’t do anything about it. The term “anticlimax” comes to mind.

One of the problems with Bandit is that the majority of Galvan’s flights are skimmed. A pleasure of many caper-based films is enjoying the intricacies that go into planning and executing robberies. There’s only a little of that here; that’s not the goal. Also, since so little effort is invested in staging the heists, there isn’t much tension or suspense. The pace is too leisurely, and while Ungar invests in telling Galvan’s story and fleshing out the man behind the dubious caption, there are times when he feels like he’s bypassing a more intense interpretation of the same basic story. Bandit offers more of a diversion than an experience.

Bandit (Canada, 2022)

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