When the trailer for “The Banker” first dropped, it showed the signs of a promising project. Good cast, interesting true story being retold, and a giant-in-the-making streaming service’s bet in the awards season. Then for some reason all news about the film faded away, at least from the part of the world where I live. It was only in April that I heard that the film has in fact been released and not doing so bad with critics. That’s when I learned all about the scandal surrounding one of its producers and the son of the key character in our story. The scandal that forced Apple to make the decision of postponing the film release and pulling it from the awards season only to release it in March, to a large degree, in secret. So, did the film deserve better?
“The Banker” tells the story of entrepreneur Bernard Garret, portrayed by Anothony Mackie, who in the 1960’s formed a partnership with Joe Morris, delightfully played by Samuel L. Jackson, to build a successful business in real estate. To overcome barriers of racism, they picked Matt Steiner to act like their business front only because he is a white man. The success of the duo encouraged them to go into the banking business in order to give the black community a fair chance in boosting their businesses and making a better life. That’s when their peculiar business arrangement is put to the real test.
You look at a film like “The Banker” from the outside and you think I can probably guess it all. It seems like another story about the struggles against racial discrimination only taking business entrepreneuship as the arena where the events take place. The film is in fact much more than that. It’s fresher and richer. It builds an increasingly interesting story over various pillars and with the element it borrows from each pillar it becomes truly unpredictable to anyone who’s not familiar with the real story.
First of course we have the angle of racism acting like a key driver for most of the transformations and escalations in our story. I can’t say that this was too fresh or different but at least we didn’t attribute everything to it. Because we also have a key character mainly driven by his desire to succeed and get rich. The story of the rise of Garret takes center stage in the design of his own motives and develops maturely throughout the entire film. Then we have our own drama where the character of Matt Steiner, played by Nicolas Hoult, offers both lightness and a great deal of complication. What starts as a humorous, Pygmalion style, transformation of a working class individual into a walking and talking businessman turns quickly into a lot more. Finally, as if all of that wasn’t enough, we have a reasonable amount of screentime dedicated to offering the audience with a clear look into the ins and outs of real estate and banking businesses. At least the parts that matter to us anyways.
What I appreciated the most is that the film never felt convoluted or messy. Maybe a little hasty at important points where a lot more could’ve been explored in our key characters, especially that of Morris. Yet, the overall sense of pace felt balanced and deliberately choosing not to get too comic or extremely dramatic.
Technically the film is also balanced with no major achievements in conveying the time period of the events. It covers what’s required but can’t say I came out with anything memorable from the visual experience. I’d say what captured the most of my attention is the performance of Mackie, who I think I’ll be taking more seriously moving forward. I also, as always, enjoyed the company of Samuel L. Jackson a lot. Nicolas Hoult also delivers a noteworthy performance for the character that represents most of the surprises and unpredictable turns throughout the film.
I would say that “The Banker” deserved more attention and much more appreciation, and if it is to be considered as a true representation to what Apple TV+ is planning in terms of films, then count me in.