If you crave true-life crime sagas, “Gridlocked” director Alan Ungar’s “Bandit” (*** OUT OF ****), should intrigue you. This lightweight but entertaining, action comedy about a lone Canadian bank robber, Gilbert Galvan Jr.,” better known as “The Flying Bandit,” isn’t your typical robbery caper. Galvan was more like Willie Sutton than John Dillinger when he pulled his bank jobs.

During a five-year period in the late 1980s, Galvan became Canada’s most notorious bank robber. Reportedly, from the 59 banks and jewelry stores he held up, he amassed a little over $2.3 million before his luck ended. Never once did he either shoot and/or kill anybody! Indeed, Galvan stuck to a regimen for his robberies.

Mind you, ‘stage’ is a better word. Before he entered a bank, he donned a disguise and shed it later so he could mingle with the other bystanders when the cops arrived. He prospered in his line of larceny because Canadian banks and jewelry stores conducted their business differently from their American counterparts.

Clocking in at an ambitious 125 minutes, “Bandit” depicts Galvan’s criminal and romantic escapades. Basically, this guy lived two lives, and his wife was largely clueless about his criminal deeds. The key to Galvan’s success was his affable charm.


For example, he asked bank cashiers politely to leave dye packs out of the loot and refrain from tripping the silent alarm. Clearly, Canadians had a different approach to crime. “Bandit” qualifies as a new spin on an old subject, and Josh Duhamel musters all of his friendly “good ole boy” charisma. Like a three-hour, Martin Scorsese inspired gangland epic, “Bandit” allows its hero to break the invisible fourth wall and address the audience for comic effect. Indeed, “Bandit” proves the truth is funnier than fiction.

Although he committed his crimes in Canada, Gilbert Galvan Jr., was an American citizen. Before resorting to robbery, he had flirted with lesser crimes. In 1984, our protagonist landed an 18-month prison stretch for check fraud. Six months later, he broke out of a minimum-security prison and fled across the border into Canada.


Adopting the name ‘Robert Whiteman’ as an alias, he became a popsicle street vender in Ottawa. These brief moments reminded me of the looney tunes hero in John Kennedy Toole’s 1980 cult novel “A Confederacy of Dunes.” Unfortunately, the popsicle company shifts from street vendors to truck salesmen, and Whiteman must scrounge for something else.

Since his arrival in Canada, he has cozied up to Angela Hudson (Elisha Cuthbert of “House of Wax”), a kind, sympathetic soul who manages a church run hostel. Eventually, these two realize they are good for each other, and romance blossoms. Whiteman lies to her about being a bank security consultant. Ultimately, he dreams of acquiring enough capital to relocate to the Bahamas where he plans to open a bar on the beach.

Before knocking off his first bank, Whiteman learned the local police had an estimated 2-to-5-minute alarm response time. A shortage of bank guards also meant tellers were prepared to accommodate felons. During his initial hold-up, Whiteman slipped the teller a scribbled note she cannot read.


Were this not embarrassing enough, our freshman thief faces a bigger problem. The teller has stacked up bundles of currency, but Whiteman has provided nothing to put the loot in. Instead, she gives him a zippered cash deposit bag!

The teller asks about his nose. So preoccupied has Whiteman been with the hold-up that he doesn’t realize his fake nose, molded from Vaseline and candle wax, has drooped! Gratefully, he tweaks his nose and exits the bank without fanfare.

Eventually, since he spends his loot faster than he can steal it, Whiteman takes a partner Tommy Kay (Mel Gibson of “Lethal Weapon”), an infamous Ottawa loan shark. Lurking on the periphery are two cops, Snydes (Nestor Carbonell of “The Dark Knight”) and Hoffman (Swen Temmel of “Boss Level”), who have been trying to bust Kay until they concentrate on Whiteman.


About 85 percent of “Bandit” adheres to the facts of Galvan’s career. He earned the “Flying Bandit” nickname because he scheduled domestic Air Canada flights to all those provinces for his hold-ups. Galvin plundered banks and jewelry stores in virtually every province except for Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

The real-life Galvan said, “I didn’t plan to do 21 robberies in a year. It just worked out that way.” Galvan’s inevitable downfall came about when he broke his own rules and took a hare-brained accomplice on his last job.

This cretin abandoned a shotgun with their finger prints on it when the police surprised them. Galvan was arrested without incident. Rated R for profanity and some sexual material/nudity, “Bandit” emerges as a quirky but amusing crime story about a non-violent crook who lived to tell his tales.


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