Based on the true story of two Black entrepreneurs Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), The Banker is an inspiring story of rising above limitations to succeed in America.
In the 1960s, Bernard showed great promise to be a successful businessman but had to overcome Jim Crow to make it out of a small town in Texas. After moving to California, he meets a seedy but successful entrepreneur named Morris and together they come up with a plan to conquer the world of real estate in Los Angeles.
The duo hires a working-class White man Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) to pretend to be the head of their business in order to get their feet in the door of the biggest real estate and banking business empires in town.
Things go well until they catch the attention of the federal government who accuses them of fraud and everything they have built looks to be taken from them in an instant.
Some say the American Dream is unattainable, but for those who are committed to winning, not even institutionalized racism can stop them.
Business and finance majors will have a ball with this story, The Banker touts a great cast of actors as our three leads played by Mackie, Jackson, and Hoult to carry this compelling real-life drama.
The story is meant to inspire those in the lower and middle-class bracket to think more about the power of wealth and how to obtain it.
The Banker touts the importance of capitalism and wealth management and does so with strong storytelling and selling conviction in its performance. Anthony Mackie is the highlight in one of the strongest performances of his career. Mackie puts his soul into the portrayal of Bernard Garrett Sr. and embodies every success and plight he experienced in his incredible life story.
Nicholas Hoult also put up a career performance as the ‘whiteface’ of a black-owned business. Hoult’s character of Matt comes from humble beginnings much like Bernard and quickly adapts to the world of finance. However, Matt’s ambition to become a better man becomes the downfall of the entire operation.
Samuel L Jackson is exactly what you would expect from Samuel L Jackson getting by on charisma alone. Jackson makes a good wingman for Mackie without outshining his performance.
The first half of the film focuses on Mackie’s rise in the world of real estate that eventually sees him plotting to overtake the biggest building in LA which is the home of the bank that refuses to see him. This is where the film is at it’s best as the characters use wit and cleverness that goes into creating a goal and seeing it through.
The downfall of the film however is when the plot changes locations and motivations back to Texas. Bernard, unsatisfied by dominating the real estate scene in Los Angeles wants to move back home and take over banks in his hometown that don’t lend to black people.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is mentioned but not given enough time considering its importance to the ending. The move proves to be too much for Bernard to handle and the film becomes a story within the story.
The Banker takes such a radical shift in tone in the 2nd half, it doesn’t feel like it’s the same film. The capitalist pursuit of wealth becomes a self-righteous pursuit of social justice. Understanding the aspects of a true story must be told, Bernard slowly becomes a different character than the film goes to great lengths to show that he is far too smart for the mistakes he made.
Pride becomes the enemy of Bernard and for the film, the tonal shift almost knocks itself off track.
Fortunately, The Banker overcomes adversity by not letting its fault overshadow its strengths. Sharp costume design, crisp cinematography, great set design, and stellar acting. The Banker is one of the most provocative films of the early film season and a perfect pick for the age of quarantine entertainment.