The Bandit review: based on the true story of Gilbert Galvan, the best-known Canadian bank robber, the film directed by Allan Ungar combines the most classic features of the genre in a mix of fun and emotion that leaves you satisfied.
A movie can be good without being labeled a masterpiece or trash. In a mainstream cinematic landscape where the polarization of content and audience is now the order of the day, when a title arrives that amuses, excites and entertains in an honest and passionate way, making good use of the genre, sometimes it even goes unnoticed. Because it’s the black and white that neutralize the many colors that make up that gaudy rainbow we call cinema, that really interest the general public.
It is the event that generates vision, by now, and not vice versa; hey film simply good end up in a meat grinder of indifference that has led streaming to become both salvation and discount of the median seventh art, the one done well without any kind of extremism which, however, no longer “pulls”, is not in trend, is negligible and superfluous, when instead it is precisely in this large bookshop that some titles are often deposited which, between pastime and curiosity, actually deserve a vision and visibility. Among the latter, for example, this one Bandit by Allan Ungar, a con movie that finds in a classic approach and in some small virtuosities of form an adequately winning formula for crafting – in fact – a good criminal biopic.
The Phantom Bandit
In and out in three minutes and not get caught in the next three minutes. This was the method of quick and perfect robbery patented by Gilbert Galvan Jr (Josh Duhamel), also known by the alias of Robert Lee Whiteman, an identity he bought for just twenty-two dollars from a homeless man in Ottawa (something the film insists on specify not be fictionalized at all). Not a bad man, Gilbert, but”product of an unfair system” and above all the son of a country in which the mythical American Dream was by now eroding, where “America’s worst enemy was the financial crisis“, resulting in economic stagnation and unemployment. We are in the midst of Reaganism and America is experiencing a moment of social unraveling, where “work, increased income and opportunities must be created day by day through the initiative of free men and women” (from a historic speech by Ronald Reagan), so as to feed again that American dream in decline.
Following precisely the words of the President, once he had escaped from a minimum security prison in Michigan for minor crimes, Galvan decided to create his own opportunities with commitment and initiative, only by fleeing to Canada and exporting the Dream a little further North to leave Troubles South. He changed several jobs, tried to live an honest life and even met the love of his life, Andrea Hudson (Elisha Cuthbert), but escaping from the past is impossible, at least until all accounts are closed. So he patents his “foolproof method“, at least within the Canadian banking system of the 1980s, devoid of armed security and as systematized on the principle of collaboration as it was disinterested in risk. In practice, child’s play, certainly not without taking the right measures and precautions and not without have good motivation, charisma and chutzpah.
Galvan possessed all of this, working hard to become the criminal who still holds the undisputed record for the most consecutive robberies in Canada (the beauty of 59 total hits). When the virus is strong and invasive, however, the immune response does not take long to make itself felt, so much so that the exploits of what was nicknamed by the Canadian press The Phantom Bandit awakened the interest of special forces led by Detective John Snydes (Nestor Carbonell), especially when he crossed paths with the far more dangerous Canadian trafficker Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson).
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Nobody is born bad
Among the youngest and most interesting Canadian directors of the moment, Allan Ungar is a name to watch. After making his directorial debut in 2014 by Trapped Outa small B-movie, continued its journey with another small action-thriller, Gridlockegaining the favor of the specialized press and lovers of the second-rate genre, a harbinger of many ideas and a virtuous and at the same time composed direction. Bandit it is his third feature film, which has recently landed on Prime Video and the one where the leap in quality is most evident. While Kraig Wenman’s screenplay relies body and soul on the excellent The Flying Bandit by Robert Knuckle, the book on which the work is based, inventing very little and translating more or less everything from the author’s writing, considered the most complete and exhaustive portrait of Galvan’s life and robberies, it is actually Ungar who evolves the his cinematic vision.
Look to David Lowery’s Old Man & the Gun for the emotional side, a Barry Seals – An American Story for the functional mix of comedy and thriller, even the wonderful Try to catch me by Steven Spielberg regarding the more chameleon-like and contemptuous of danger related to the figure of the robber. Ungar skilfully exploits inspirations and derivations to pack a biographical con-heist movie that is as classic in setting as it is pop and sophisticated in form, where there are breaks in the fourth wall, pleasant and well-conceived freezing with superimposed writing and really good editing. Much of the credit for the success of Bandit however it goes to the charismatic, cheeky and jaunty interpretation of a Josh Duhamel ever so good (perhaps in Jupiter’s Legacy), followed by a credible Mel Gibson in the role of a criminal figure halfway between teacher, friend and godfather and now tired of being the antagonist, out of time even for Boy George and his Karma Cameleon.
Also to be commended is Carbonell in the role of the “guard” obsessed with capturing the “thieves”, a not so wrong stereotype of crime in the cinematic sense, as there cannot be a great bandit without a great detective able to frame him (just think of The Untouchables, Eliot Ness and Al Capone). Net of a perhaps excessive length for the story it tells and the way it decides to tell it from the middle onwards, Bandit has the further merit of advancing with the right interest in the social criticalities of an economy in disarray and a system from to reform, speaking directly to our day without dignify the offense ‘a la Robin Hood but emphasizing the importance of institutions in protecting one’s own people. When Galvan says that “no one is born bad“, is absolutely true, as true is the reassurance of evil when “everything becomes possible“. And it is that certainty that turns man into a bandit.
In conclusion, Bandit proves to be an enjoyable viewing on Prime Video. Strengthened by an interesting true story based on the charismatic and histrionic figure of the Canadian Phantom Bandit, Allan Ungar’s film stages an ever so good Josh Duhamel and a perfectly in part master-friend Mel Gibson, crafting a derivative but rich work of intuition as pleasant in form as even surprising – at times – in content. A good movie to miss.
Because we like it
- The histrionic interpretation of Josh Duhamel.
- A believable and part Mel Gibson.
- Directed by Ungar.
- The not at all obvious reflection on Reaganism is “the product of your environment and system”.
- The duration is perhaps too long for the story and the way it is told.
- It works a lot more in the first half than the second.