It seems that these strange times we find ourselves in, aren't going away anytime soon. So we're going to continue spending the majority of our time indoors. Which means it's time for the latest in our Lockdown Streaming Survival Guide, this time we're looking at 'The Banker' on Apple TV+.
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Two enterprising businessman - Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) - are looking to get into real estate and banking, not an easy thing for two Black men in 1960's America. Their solution? Get a white guy to be the face of the business.
Sad to say, there's a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, which is the very reason for the delayed - and hushed - release of what was supposed to be a big Oscar contender for Apple. Bernard Garrett's son, Bernard Jr. - a man at the centre of this production - was accused by his half sisters of sexual abuse. As a result of all this the movie is now described as "based on true events" and Garrett Jr.'s name was removed from the movie.
As a piece of entertainment though, 'The Banker' is fine. It might not be quite the Oscar bait that Apple was hoping, but it's actually fun to watch, with its Ocean's Eleven-esque, caper-type charm. We're introduced to our heroes, one very straight, reserved, he has a gift with numbers (Mackie), the other is larger than life and instantly fun to be around (Jackson). So already you have the makings of a buddy comedy, although the movie never goes that far down the comedy route, despite making you laugh out loud on more than one occasion.
The three leads all deliver excellent performances, they bring depth to characters that could be painfully one-dimensional. There's great chemistry here, all three actors gel really well. Watching Mackie and Jackson mould Hoult's 'Matt Steiner' from an average joe into (what appears to be) a sophisticated businessman plays perfectly into the caper style the movie is going for. Watch out for the golf practice. 'The Banker' also works as a commentary on the times (both in the 1960's and today), there are moments that will make your blood boil with rage. These moments of sheer ignorance do go on to make Garrett and Morris' successes all the more enjoyable. Seeing the trio cheat the system, evening the odds - however slightly - in a country where racism seems to be a way of life, is delightful.
Problems do arise when it comes to the accuracy of the story. Two of Bernard Garrett's widows opposed the release of 'The Banker'. Linda Garrett (married to Bernard throughout the 1960's and 70's) has published an open letter criticising the movie's accuracy (or apparent lack there of). In the letter she provides a basic timeline of their marriage in order to demonstrate how wrong the filmmakers got it. There's no denying however, that Garrett and Morris - with the help of Steiner - achieved incredible things in the face of great adversity, and the movie does show this, however inaccurately.
It may not be the big award contender that Apple hoped, or all that accurate a depiction of real events. The fact that's mired in controversy doesn't help either. But it is a fun watch with some great performances, and at least it captures some of the spirit of what Garrett and Morris achieved.
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