Bandit tells the incredible true story of a clever bank robber that confounded Canadian authorities for years. Josh Duhamel gives his career-best performance as the wily Gilbert Galvan Jr. He’s infectiously charming as a criminal who used disguises, distractions, and methodical planning to pull off, drum roll please, fifty-nine heists. Good supporting performances from Elisha Cuthbert, Mel Gibson, and Nestor Carbonell complete a winning ensemble. Bandit is told with a lighthearted delivery filled with good humor. You root for the dashing thief, who used the alias Robert Whiteman, to make another glorious escape.
The film opens on June 12, 1988, in London, Canada. Robert Whiteman (Duhamel) enters a bank dressed in a cap, red jacket, and prosthetic nose. He cheerily asks the teller to fill his bag with money. Whiteman saunters outside in a business suit and briefcase. He tosses a wad of cash at a woman with a “For Sale” sign on her car. Whiteman drives away laughing as a furious Detective John Snyde (Carbonell) and his task force grab a confused patsy paid to dress in the robber’s outfit.
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Whiteman narrates his story throughout the film. In 1984 Detroit, Michigan, Gilbert Galvan Jr. is arrested for robbery and fraud. Galvan knows he’ll get minimum time in a cupcake prison. Galvan easily escapes and makes his way north into Canada. He ends up in Ottawa selling popsicles from a cart. Galvan gets the job as Robert Whiteman after buying a homeless man’s license. Whiteman takes shelter at a local church. He’s smitten by the beautiful and kind Andrea Hudson (Cuthbert).
Whiteman notices that Canadian banks don’t have armed guards. He decides to surveil banks in other cities to avoid local heat. A stop at a costume store leads to another epiphany. Meanwhile, Snyde has failed for years to collar Ottawa’s biggest fence and gangster, Tommy K (Mel Gibson). A chance drink at Tommy’s strip club gives Whiteman another idea. He needs a connected partner to fund his travels and help him launder the spoils.
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Based on The Flying Bandit
Based on The Flying Bandit by Robert Knuckle, Whiteman, known by that name to Andrea, Tommy, and the cops, had a likable personality. He wasn’t a violent man but loved the thrill of robbery. Whiteman enjoyed the meticulous planning and disguises. He was always a step ahead of Canadian law enforcement. They had no idea that the same man was flying all over the country robbing banks. I laughed hysterically as Whiteman achieved elite flyer status by racking up airline miles.
Director Allan Ungar, known for his popular Uncharted Live Action Fan Film, literally uses bells and whistles to sweeten the narrative. Sound effects ding as screen captions note the dates, cities, and particularly outrageous Whiteman stunts. The guy was an unabashed felon but had panache. His earlier robberies are hilarious as he hones his skills through trial and error.
Duhamel portrays Whiteman as flawed, but sophisticated and compassionate. A product of a rough childhood, he never had love or belonging as Galvan Jr. His exploits in Canada led to true affection for Andrea and his first friend in Tommy. The handsome Duhamel shows comedic talent in the bank robberies, then flips effortlessly into a committed partner who treasured his new family and surroundings. Whiteman finds belonging and happiness but couldn’t walk away from larcenous urges. Gibson’s Tommy has a great line that always rings true, “You can only tickle the balls of a lion for so long without getting mauled.”
Bandit is produced by Goldrush Entertainment and Yale Productions. It will have a theatrical release on September 23rd from Redbox Entertainment and Quiver Distribution.