September 23, 2022 / Quiver Entertainment
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Elisha Cuthbert, Nestor Carbonell
Directed By: Allan Ungar
After escaping from a Michigan prison, a charming career criminal assumes a new identity in Canada and goes on to rob a record 59 banks and jewellery stores while being hunted by a police task force.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Bandit features a career best performance from Josh Duhamel as bank robber Robert Whiteman in this entertaining true crime thriller inspired by the most notorious Canadian bank robber The Flying Bandit.
For years, Josh Duhamel has graced our screen in action films and comedies, where he normally plays a supporting character or a lead in a film that was not well received well by audiences, disregarding the criminally underrated romantic comedy Life As We Know It with Katherine Heigl. I have always enjoyed Duhamel, even if he didn’t necessarily have the best roles, but he is phenomenal in his latest film.
Starring Robert Whiteman, the film is inspired by the story of the most infamous Canadian bank robber who managed to rob a record 59 banks over the course of nine years across Canada, largely undetected until the police caught onto his method while trying to take down a larger criminal. Whiteman’s method involved elaborate productions and disguises to allow him to slip into banks unnoticed and leave with the money, without suspicion or anyone realizing the money had been stolen. Naturally, this allows the film to have some great heist sequences featuring some stellar costume design and prosthetics to transform Duhamel into the many faces that Whiteman wore over the course of his career. Each sequence is entertaining, certain to generate some good laughs as you witness some truly ridiculous methods in which Whiteman robbed a bank, but that is not the focus of the film.
The film itself is a character piece, exploring the motivations and circumstances that led Whiteman to a career in bank robbing after escaping prison in the United States and fleeing to Canada, and why he continued down this path even when he knew the police were on to him. The film’s writer, Kraig Wenman, does a great job balancing the character studying with the fun heist sequences in the first two acts, before having a shift in tone in the final act as the chase for Whiteman by the Canadian authorities heats up, delivering an exciting conclusion to the film.
Though, it is Duhamel’s performance that is the standout of the film. Duhamel is incredibly suave and charming as Whiteman, letting his natural charisma and screen presence ooze in every single frame. He hooks the audience from the beginning, while Whiteman is trying to make his way honestly in life while hiding in Canada, before he begins his morally dubious career. At the same time, he finds an emotional depth and honesty that I have rarely seen Duhamel show in a performance, most likely due to the scripts he has been dealt in his career, making for a truly excellent performance.
The supporting cast is comprised of Elisha Cuthbert, Nestor Carbonell and Mel Gibson. Cuthbert is sweet and works her way into both Whiteman’s heart and the audiences’ as Whiteman’s girlfriend/wife Andrea, providing a physical manifestation of why Whiteman embarks on his escapades as a career bank robber. Carbonell is a great fit for the role of Snydes, the agent who picks up on Whiteman’s trail of robberies, and vigorously tracks him down across Canada. It may be the five seasons that he was a cop on Bates Motel, but Carbonell in my mind is the right fit for any law enforcement agent as he has the dry, serious nature to him while being able to throw out the odd comedic one liner to mess with his suspects. The only weak link in the cast is Mel Gibson, who is fine, but does not do much work to create a memorable character of the criminal who helps fund Whiteman’s career of crime.
Canadian director Allan Ungar does an excellent job behind the camera, ensuring that the human story is never sacrificed for the spectacle of Whiteman’s heists, taking the audience on a thrilling adventure from start to finish while getting a truly phenomenal performance out of Duhamel. Ungar may be best known for directing the infamous Uncharted fan film starring Nathan Fillion, but with Bandit he shows true talent as a director and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for him. Much like The Flying Bandit stealing money across the country, Josh Duhamel steals the film and the audience’s attention with a dazzling lead performance showing how talented of an actor he can be, making Bandit a Canadian film that is every bit as exciting as a Hollywood blockbuster that you cannot afford to miss.