Band it’s one of those true crime movies where you come away feeling like the filmmakers spent a little too much time dawdling with their subject matter, sitting in smoky bars listening to great stories about the good old bad days. It’s pretty heartfelt but tells a completely hokey and indulgent story about an armed robber Gilbert Galvan, which went on a heist spree across Canada in the 1980s, carrying out nearly 60 thefts in three years targeting banks and jewelers. The newspapers called him “the flying bandit”.
The film portrays Galvan’s crimes as more or less victimless – repeatedly showing what a polite and cordial bank robber he is, never shooting a gun. It’s a brilliant old-school flick, mixing a bit of action with tongue-in-cheek comedy. Josh Duhamel gives a charming, shallow performance as Galvan, a career criminal we first meet while escaping from a Michigan prison and flying over it north of the border. In Ottawa, he changes his name to Robert Whiteman and goes into armed robbery, financed by a local criminal (Mel Gibson, about as menacing as a fairy cake).
Galvan’s first fumbling heist is played for laughs. “How did I do it?” he asks the cashier at the end. And there’s a lot of attention here on his silly wigs and comedic disguises – what a nice bank robber he is. (You can imagine the director’s instructions to actors playing bank tellers: “Look scared, but don’t This scared’.) The film is also on pretty thin ice with its flimsy vindications of Galvin’s life of crime. He had a difficult childhood, we learn, and when he meets trainee social worker Andrea (Elisha Cuthbert), he continues the flights to support his family. Duhamel is still an easy and likable watch, and it’s a reasonably entertaining film – but not exactly rich in insight.