There have been quite a few films that discuss the racist behavior of mid-20th century America. Most of them cover the racial divide and the hardships African Americans had to go through. While The Banker retreads some of that ground, it focuses more on how two specific African Americans overcame these issues and sparked change. Let’s take a closer look in our review of The Banker.
Directed by George Nolfi, The Banker follows the real life events of Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), two African American businessmen living in the Los Angeles area. They overcame the unethically segregated real estate market in Southern California, then attempted to do the same in Texas, fighting against the odds with a little bit of trickery and a lot of intellect.
Garrett grew up in Texas as somewhat of a math prodigy. He was very good with numbers, which allowed him to excel at real estate, buying apartment buildings at a low cost in White neighborhoods, and turning them into affordable housing for African Americans in good financial standings. Of course, it was extremely difficult for a Black man to do all of this, so he had some help from Patrick Barker (Colm Meaney), Morris and Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult).
Most of the film covers the various successes had by Garrett and Morris, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The bumps are where the tension comes into play and the script truly shines at these points. Mackie exudes class that is rarely seen on-screen, while Jackson plays off of him well with a more urban personality for his character. Add in Steiner as the eager, young opportunist and you have a stellar combination of acting talent and a quality script.
As The Banker enters its third act, things begin to get rough for our protagonists. It’s at this point that the film most closely resembles other movies about the difficulties African Americans faced at the time. It’s a big transition from a clever real estate drama to a courtroom civil rights film, but The Banker handles the change flawlessly.
The film spends just a bit too much time living the good life, forcing the remainder of The Banker to feel just a little rushed, but it’s a minor grievance, and one many moviegoers will likely appreciate if they’re not into courtroom dramas. There’s a lot to take in with The Banker, and it comes at you in a variety of ways, but the film eases the audience into some difficult racial conversations with levity and wit. It’s very similar to the approach Green Book took back in 2018, while remaining faithful to the true events depicted in the film. It’s a drama that deals with difficult racial issues in a fun, intense and rewarding manner.
About The Banker
Synopsis: In the 1960s two African-American entrepreneurs hire a working-class white man to pretend to be the head of their business empire while they pose as a janitor and chauffeur.
Director: George Nolfi
Writers: Brad Kane, Niceole R. Levy
Stars: Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult
Runtime: 2 Hours