The Banker review – a formulaic film that offers a mild return on your investment

March 23, 2020 (Last updated: last month)
M.N. Miller 0
Apple TV+, Film, Film Reviews


The Banker offers a mild return but misses an opportunity on a larger investment.

Apple’s first big dive into popular feature films is a fairly formulaic biopic of two men who attempted to subvert an archaic law that prevented minorities from owning property in the 1950s — well, at least the face of ownership anyway. It has all the resources for success with a couple of effective performances, a story that’s very timely, and an intriguing device of the owners operating in the shadows. Unfortunately, director George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) and a script from Brad Krane (Netflix’s Extinction) miss an opportunity for a larger return by not incorporating a fair portion of the congressional trial that is the real heart of the matter.

In the 1950s, Bernard and Eunice Garrett (Anthony Mackie and Nia Long) have moved to California in the hopes of starting the American dream. After encountering issues purchasing property by the simple matter of the unfair treatment of the color of their skin, Bernard teams up with entrepreneur Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) to buy buildings and eventually a bank by having a white man (Nicholas Holt) pose as the CEO of their company.

The Banker was supposed to be marketed as Apple TV+‘s first feature film at AFI Fest last fall but pushed back its release amid sexual abuse allegations against the son of Bernard Garrett and a co-producer of the film (the allegations were made by the accused’s half-sister, which subsequently lead to Garrett’s name being stripped from the film). The release date during black history month was missed but was finally released this month. The film will certainly benefit from avoiding a logjam in the December award season release and now has a considerable market to itself when most theatres have closed down during the pandemic.

Nolfi’s film benefits from two very good lead performances in the stoic Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson who absolutely steals every scene he is in. The script is a fairly straightforward type of drama chronicling the events of Morris, Garrett, and Steiner that offers an almost heist-like a plot by having the key players playing chauffeurs, cleaners, and janitors in the shadows in order to run their business for the right of the “pursuit” of the American dream like everyone else.

The film is overall entertaining, well shot, and developed, but the heart of the matter is a trial that leads to a hearing of the men charged with fraud by using “beard” by buying a bank. That part of the script is cut too short, resulting in an empty ending, with the filmmakers trying to wrap up a story with a cute little “white-savior” bow; this was unneeded and takes away the true unfairness of what happened to these men when antes the rights that everyone else had. The script should have incorporated the trial sporadically through the narrative to offer a higher-quality structure, and a better pay off by the film’s end.

The Banker will offer a mild return for most but misses an opportunity on a larger emotional investment for most casual fans to true cinephiles. It’s worth a mild recommendation based on its strong performances, even if we weren’t trying to flatten the curve during these trying times.

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