Synopsis: After escaping a Michigan prison, a charming career criminal assumes a new identity in Canada and goes on to rob a record 59 banks and jewellery stores while being hunted by a police task force. Based on the story of The Flying Bandit.
Director: Allan Ungar
Stars: Josh Duhamel, Elisha Cuthbert, Nestor Carbonell, Mel Gibson
Over the course of time there have been many films that have dealt with characters that are bank robbers. Off the top of my head, The Town, Destroyer, Point Break are some that come to mind. Now this spans many years but one thing they all have in common is…violence. You heard me…. Violence. Someone always ended up getting shot or hurt as the robbers made their way to the money and their attempted escape.
So, I suppose you need to add violence in to make a good bank robbery movie, right? Well, not so fast. Allan Ungar, who directs Bandit, has found a perfect blend of intrigue and excitement in this film to do away with violence, it helps that the actual person this film is based on was also non-violent in his criminal acts.
The film tells the story of Gilbert Galvan Jr. who was a bank robber and a very charming one. Sounds odd but he was. The role is played by Josh Duhamel who has the right combination of charm and good looks to pull off this role. We see Galvan Jr. escape from prison and head to Canada. There he stays at a shelter where he meets Andrea, played by Elisha Cuthbert. Andrea has a nurturing way about her and takes a liking to her new tenant not knowing the secrets he is harbouring.
While Galvan Jr. attempts to blend in some habits are hard to break as he starts robbing banks in Canada. There was no sign of machine guys or throwing people down. It was very subtle and under the radar. And he robbed a lot of banks. Well over 50. What made his method so interesting is he would go in with different disguises and, dare I say, politely rob the tellers.
I guess it only makes sense that someone robbing banks in Canada would be overly polite…eh?
As Galvan Jr. is more and more successful, he ends up teaming with loan shark, and local gangster Tommy Kay, played by Mel Gibson. At this time in his career an actor such as Gibson could be accused for ‘mailing’ in his performance but not here. The Oscar winner seems to approach this role with the same passion that he always has.
Another aspect that this film does it capture the time of the mid 80’s. From the actual currency that was used then to the music. While Covid restrictions took away the opportunity of filming this in Canada, you can see no shortcut was taken in establishing the time for this film. This film is a time capsule that takes the audience to the mid-80’s in Canada..
The performances are strong in this film. Duhamel is great as the lead. A quick look at IMDB will tell you that Duhamel has not had a lot of standout parts recently. He had a good supporting role in 2018’s Love, Simon but why isn’t he given more material for strong leading roles? He should be. He does a fantastic job in this film and under Ungar’s direction delivers some of his finest work.
As a long time 24 fan seeing Jack Bauer’s daughter on screen, or anyone from that cast to be honest, always makes me smile. Cuthbert’s performance is so effortless. She gives Andrea a soul and makes the audience sympathetic to her character.
Nestor Carbonell, who many will recognize from The Dark Knight series, plays the lead investigator on Galvan Jr’s trail. Not to be the broken record but again, more screen time for Carbonell please.
Overall, this movie worked for me. I found it very entertaining. Ungar was able to mix Catch Me if You Can with Heat but not in a way that reeks of copycat but more so of homage. He’s clearly a fan of film and has made a very entertaining one here.
Heat is my favourite movie of all time, and I am very protective of it and usually shake my head in disappointment when a film tries to copy it, looking at you Den of Thieves. That’s not what this movie is. You can see the inspiration of that film, but Ungar has taken a real-life story and carved out his own niche. Backed by a script by Kraig Wenman, Ungar and team have put forth a movie that is very entertaining and definitely worth your time.