The Banker, based on a true story, is directed by George Nolfi. It tells a lesser-known tale of two black businessmen, who became the first African-American citizens to own a bank in the United States.
As the first Apple TV original, The Banker can be described as educative entertainment. It is not always factually correct, but is exceptionally well-made that solidifies the presence of OTT content.
Watch the trailer of The Banker below.
The dialogues are sharp, and the less boasted narrative keeps everything believable. Though the film’s appeal is for black Americans, it’s easy to relate with the characters, particularly, the protagonist, Bernard Garrett.
Portrayed by Anthony Mackie, the film sketches the journey of Bernard from being a shoe-shining boy to a real-estate mogul. And it does in the classic conventions of an inspirational, feel-good film.
The first 30-minutes are briskly paced, which serve as a cover for the film’s straightforward narrative. It is only after the said time when things get cinematically exciting.
Matt Steiner (played fantastically by Nicholas Hoult) takes center stage as he agrees to help Bernard and Joe Morris (an elated Samuel L. Jackson) run their operations by becoming the face value of their partnership.
As the naive White guy, Hoult is pitch-perfect. He gets the meatiest arc in the film as his character goes through multiple transformations. He plays his part very well with a great degree of enthusiasm.
The film’s entire segment leading up to the half-way mark plays out like a caper. And seeing Matt pull off a great deal for Bernard and Joe, pretending to be something he is not, is immensely amusing. This is precisely where The Banker offers its most delightful bits. Sadly, it loses its steam in the second half, when the pace slows down for some predictable twists.
The film boasts excellent cinematography. The camera beautifully envelops the magnificent architecture of the buildings and the sidewalks, underlining the racial discrimination of that period in the neighborhoods of Texas and California.
I counted two scenes where Bernard leisurely walked in his neighborhood to acknowledge how much his surroundings have evolved. Those moments were some of the best in the film, as they exhibited the pre-civil rights America.
Cast in a surprisingly unusual role, Mackie is wonderful as Bernard. His passive aggression is on point throughout the film. Through mere stares and nods, he manages to say a lot about his character. And it is a delight not to see him goofing around.
The goofiness, instead, is saved for Samuel L. Jackson. As a seasoned black entrepreneur, he seemed to be thoroughly relishing his role. His entire training montage with Hoult produces good laughs.
Nia Long as Bernard’s wife is terrific. Her character gets a bunch of intense moments to shine in, and she does a great job.
Produced on a budget of $11 million, The Banker matches top-tier production values. It succeeds in providing educative entertainment, while serving a showreel for Mackie, Hoult, and Jackson. It doesn’t have enough repeat value but will do fine for a one-time viewing.
Rating: 3 / 5
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