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Review: Bandito

Updated: Mar 3, 2022


Experience the epic coming-of-age story of a young boy who sneaks out to join his older brother on a semi-truck heist that will change his life.


Watching Jamie (C.J. Valleroy), the film’s protagonist reckon with the very real consequences of his actions, we realise that co-writer and director Evan Ari Kelman has pulled off a powerful cinematic moment. We see the exact moment innocence leaves a young boy and the moment he crosses the line into adulthood…a moment that happens way before he is ready. And therein lies the key ingredient of a great coming of age movie (which this is), the realisation that adulthood comes along before you officially reach it. That we are a dozen decisions deep before we realise where we are.

Kelman takes the above concepts and realisations and wraps them up in a tightly packed crime thriller that expertly builds towards an explosive climax, displaying intriguing character dynamics, impressive scope and top-class cinematography along the way. Opening on the discovery of a parked up truck that Jamie and gang leader Kingsley (Jack Berenholtz) suspect has valuable cargo, a character relationship is established between Jamie, his brother Scotty (Nathan Varnson) and Kingsley in which Scotty does his best to keep Jamie out of the risky and dangerous nature of their operations. Jamie meanwhile is eager to please, and Kingsley is all too happy for the enthusiastic kid to come along.

The establishment of this three-way relationship is the basis for the dramatic stakes that the film hinges on. Scotty is clearly smarter than his peers but somehow finds himself hitched to their wagon, a fate he seems desperate for his younger brother to avoid. By asking the dramatic question ‘will Jamie avoid following his brother’s path?’ and coupling that to the plot and its MacGuffin (an unknown cargo as the target of an inexperienced and inept group of low-level criminals), the story becomes a ticking clock, counting down to the moment that Jamie will cross a point of no return.

One of the film’s biggest accomplishments is that it does not betray the fact that it is a Kickstarter-funded student film. Everything about its scale, craft and construction screams studio feature or at the very least, indie darling. There are more than a few similarities to Hell Or High Water about this film (a film that came out the year after this one), in terms of its style and subject matter. Both films focus on a group of anti-hero outlaws, both take place in the seclusion of rural America and both expertly utilise landscape and light to create a mesmerising visual style that makes it impossible to take your eyes off the screen.

Additionally, Bandito feels like a feature film experience, not just because of the craft involved but also because of how much Kelman and co-writer, producer and editor Parker Hill squeeze into its 16-minute runtime. It is fair to say that the film flirts with the line that beyond which, the film may start to feel slightly overloaded, however by staying on the right side of that line with some great visual and narrative pacing, the film gives the viewer plenty to unpack by the time the credits roll.

Bandito is an intimate story told with considerable scope and a standout short film that delivers a lot more than it promises.

Studio: Evan Ari Kelman | Year: 2015 | Genre: Crime Thriller | Duration: 16 Mins | Suitability: Mature



Director: Evan Ari Kelman | Producer: Parker Hill | Writers: Evan Ari Kelman, Parker Hill

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