Josh Duhamel plays Gilbert Galvan Jr, a career criminal who escapes from a Michigan prison in 1985, changes his name to Robert Whiteman and high tails it over the border to Ontario. “When things go south,” he says, “sometimes you gotta go north.”
Whiteman, when he isn’t romancing social worker Andrea (Elisha Cuthbert), is scoping out banks as a source of fast, ready cash. “No one’s born bad,” he says. “Like anything, it takes practice.”
Posing as a security analyst, he identifies security weaknesses at several local institutions, and concocts a wild plan. Wearing a series of outlandish disguises, he flies around Canada robbing banks, sometimes at a rate of two or three a day. “In the states they have armed guards at every bank around the country,” he says, “but in Canada it’s like stealing candy with a mace.”
With the money rolling in, he looks for bigger opportunities with the help of mobster Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson as an Ottawa baddie).
Whiteman’s high-flying antics attract the attention of the media, who dub him the Flying Bandit, and Detective Snydes (Nestor Carbonell), a hard-nosed cop who vows to bring the travelling thief to justice.
With its light and breezy first half, “Bandit” takes a turn for the dramatic as Whiteman begins to feel the consequences of his life choices in the last half.
Like a CanCon “Catch Me If You Can,” “Bandit” is the story of a charismatic criminal whose non-violent antics are meant to entertain not outrage. To that end Duhamel hands in a likeable, witty performance as a guy who does the wrong thing, but for the right reasons. He wants a family and a regular life, but circumstance and his predilection for breaking the law always seem to get the best of him. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at,” he says of bank robbing.
Duhamel’s congeniality shaves off any rough edges the film might have developed in a more realistic portrayal of criminal life. Even Gibson, as the heavy, seems like Scorsese Lite.
Clocking in at just under two hours, “Bandit” sags in the middle. The disguises grow more and more eccentric, the robberies begin to blur into one another, but buoyed by enjoyable performances, the movie emerges as a slick, although not very deep, crime story.