The Banker (Apple Original)
Starring Anthony Mackie, Samuel L Jackson, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by George Nolfi
Rating: ** (2 stars)
The Banker is admirable for dealing with the issue of racism in America in the 1950s with such a diligent and committed approach to periodicity. The clothes that the characters wear, the cars that they move around in, the issues of discrimination, marginalization and civil rights that they represent are all very impressive.
Just because a phone company has produced The Banker it doesn’t follow that the production is in any way cut down the size. So full marks for treating the film as a film and not a phone-y affair. However, there is a catch.
The sincerity of intent doesn’t necessarily make a great or even a good film. If it did then the Narendra Modi biopic by Omung Kumar would have been an instant classic. Cinema, especially that which reclaims the wrongs done in the past, must be warm witty and empathetic while going back into the uncomfortable recesses of the past.
The Banker fails on those counts, The stodgy stilted storytelling brims over with self-righteousness. But fails to convey even an iota of the passion and feeling of Just Mercy. The Banker is the true-life story of Bernard Garret (Anthony Mackie), an educated sophisticated Black American in the 1950s who wanted Black people to be assimilated in the White mind space. So he would buy property in White locations and sell it to Black folks. Bernard bought over a bank so that Black people can be given loans.
So far so noble. But here comes the catch. To buy over the bank, Bernard hatches a deceitful illegal plan where a young white man Matt Steiner (played by the handsome but miscast British actor Nicholas Hoult) fronted their ambitions.
Whiteboy Matt messes up bigtime because, well, the color of your skin determines your morality in a film like this. In Matt, I saw only one decent White man in The Banker and he finally turned out to be a prized ass. Whereas all the Black characters are smart sassy persecuted and oppressed but brave and unvanquished, so let’s hear it for the Black boys, although this is some kind of inverted racism, where even the hero Bernard Garet’s young son is portrayed as precociously prodigious.
(Apropos of nothing, the real-life Bernard Garret’s son was recently accused of sexual abuse).
At the grand finale, Bernard gives a rousing speech in the courtroom asking the(white) Judge, “Why is one section of the community left out of the American Dream?”
To facilitate the making of such a self-righteous color-conscious but a tone-deaf film which leaves you unmoved even as it moves from being a saga of rising above color discrimination to a caper like the Robert Redford-Paul Newman classic The Sting.
If Redford and Newman are black and if The Sting is boring, The Banker is the film.