Bandit is the (true!) story of Gilbert Galvan, Jr (Josh Duhamel). In the middle of doing time for petty crime, Galvan escapes from prison and slips into Canada during 1984. There, he begins a new life under a brand-new identity and meets his future wife Andrea (Elisha Cuthbert). Now going as Robert Whiteman, Galvan struggles to find reliable work to support his family but does discover he has one talent: robbing banks. As his schemes become increasingly more elaborate Galvan/Whiteman comes under the tutelage of a local mobster Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson) and the stakes escalate. Eventually his criminal activity catches the attention of Detective John Snydes (Nestor Carbonell) who vows to bring the slippery thief to justice.
What works in Bandit is the so strange-it-must-be true tale, powered by Duhamel’s charisma. The portrayal of Whiteman is infectiously affable, and it helps answer the obvious question: how in the world did this guy not get caught? From the opening credits to the close, director Allan Ungar (Tapped Out) keeps audiences engaged on a wild ride filled with adrenaline and laughs. And there-in lies the secret to Bandit’s success—this is not a film packed with action sequences, intense car chases, or dramatic shootouts. Instead, Bandit simply tells its story of thievery which at times gets so fantastical, Ungar flashes text on the screen such as “this actually happened,” to address the exact the moments audiences would likely be skeptical. There’s an airiness to the whole affair which keeps the entertainment at high levels throughout.
Individuals who don’t enjoy stories where they can smell the inevitable coming a mile way, or casting a duplicitous criminal in a positive light, may not enjoy Bandit as much as others. Even for those people unfamiliar with this tale, it is obvious how Whiteman’s career trajectory will end. Some audience members may not relish waiting for that other shoe to drop for the entire runtime. Additionally, while Bandit never glorifies or justifies Galvan/Whiteman actions, he’s certainly the star and the film wants you to at least like him. This is meant to explain, if not simulate, just how he was able to rather peacefully rob so many banks with relative ease. But just the fact that this unabashed criminal and serial liar is given any positive slant may rub individuals the wrong way.
Bandit is the kind of movie that is easy to recommend to many people. It’s not flashy or bombastic in any way, so it uses real-life events coupled with strong writing and almost unexpectedly great performances to elevate the source material into a final product that is engrossing and just plain fun.
Audiences can find Bandit on digital streaming platforms now.