Bandit review – shallow crime caper is saucer-eyed over real-life 1980s bank robber

Josh Duhamel charms as ‘flying bandit’ Gilbert Galvan, who pulled off nearly 60 robberies across Canada, but this light-hearted retelling lacks any insight

Bandit is one of those true-crime films where you come away with the impression that the film-makers have spent a bit too long hanging out with their subject, sitting in smoky bars listening to tall tales about the good ol’ bad days. It’s sincere enough but tells an utterly hokey and indulgent story about armed robber Gilbert Galvan, who went on a stick-up spree across Canada in the 1980s, pulling off nearly 60 robberies in three years targeting banks and jewellers. Newspapers called him “the flying bandit”.

The film paints Galvan’s crimes as more or less victimless – repeatedly showing what a polite and cordial bank robber he is, never firing a gun. It’s a glossy old-fashioned movie, mixing a bit of action with tongue-in-cheek comedy. Josh Duhamel gives a performance that’s all charm and no depth as Galvan, a career criminal we first meet escaping from a Michigan prison and hightailing it north of the border. In Ottawa, he changes his name to Robert Whiteman and gets into the armed robbery business, bankrolled by a local criminal hardman (Mel Gibson, about as menacing as a fairy cake).

Galvan’s first fumbling stick-up is played for laughs. “How did I do?” he asks the cashier at the end. And there’s a lot of focus here on his silly wigs and comedy disguises – what a nice-guy bank robber he is. (You can picture the director’s instructions to the actors playing the bank cashiers: “Look scared, but not that scared”.) The film is on pretty thin ice too with its shaky justifications for Galvin’s life of crime. He had a tough childhood, we learn, and when he meets trainee social worker Andrea (Elisha Cuthbert), he keeps on with the robberies to provide for his family. Duhamel is always an easy, likable watch, and this is a reasonably entertaining film – but not exactly abundant with insight.

• Bandit is available now on Prime Video.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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