Josh Duhamel delivers his finest work in Allan Ungar’s “Bandit”

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

There have been many films that have featured characters who are bank robbers: The Town, Destroyer, and Point Break are some that come to mind. They span many years, but one thing they all have in common is . . . violence. You heard me . . . violence. Someone always gets shot or hurt as the robbers make their way to the money and attempt to escape.  

I guess you need to add violence to make a good bank robbery movie, right? Well, not so fast. Allan Ungar, the director of Bandit, has found a perfect blend of intrigue and excitement in this film to do away with violence; it also helps that the actual person the film is based on was a non-violent criminal.

The film tells the story of Gilbert Galvan Jr, 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 it off. 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 is nurturing and takes a liking to her new tenant, not knowing the secrets he harbors.

While Galvan Jr attempts to blend in, some habits are hard to break, and he starts robbing banks in Canada. There are no signs of machine guns or throwing people down; it was very subtle and under the radar. But 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 bank.

I guess it only makes sense that someone robbing financial institutions in Canada would be overly polite . . . eh?

As Galvan Jr becomes more successful, he teams up with Tommy Kay, a local gangster and loan shark, played by Mel Gibson. At this time in his career, an actor such as Gibson could be accused of ‘mailing’ in his performance but not here. The Oscar winner approaches this role with the same passion he typically exhibits.

This film is a time capsule that takes the audience to the mid-80s in Canada. From the actual currency used to the music, it does a great job at capturing the time and place despite Covid restrictions taking away the ability to film in Canada—no shortcuts were taken. 

The performances are also strong in this film. Duhamel is great as the lead, even though 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 leading roles? He should be. He does a fantastic job in this film and delivers some of his finest work under Ungar's direction.

As a long-time 24 fan seeing Jack Bauer’s daughter on screen, or anyone from that cast, 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 trial. Not to be the broken record, but more screen time for Carbonell, please.

This movie works. 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, more so of homage. He’s clearly a fan of film and has made a very entertaining one.

Heat is my favourite movie of all time. 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 film's inspiration, but Ungar has taken a real-life story and carved out a niche. Backed by a script by Kraig Wenman, Ungar and team have put forward a movie that is very entertaining and definitely worth your time.

Grade: B

Watch the movie trailer:

Watch Keith's interview with Director Allan Ungar: