REVIEW: THE BANKER shines a compelling light on the injustices placed on many in search of the American Dream.


Directo George Nolfi leads a star-studded cast in this captivating true-life story of African-American entrepreneurs who hired a white frontman to enable them to succeed in the segregated worlds of banking and real estate of the ’60s.

Period pictures have an added hurdle many films don’t of bridging the gap between the present and the period the film is set in the mind of the viewer in terms of the making the subject of the film feel contemporaneous to the viewer in terms of the response it elicits. If the film portrays a social injustice, drawing the contrast between the now and then by showing the difficulties involved is one course of action. The other is often by showing the effect this injustice has on the protagonist; that they would succeed in their endeavors if not for the wall that these blocks to their success built to stymie their progress in life. Director George Nolfi takes both of the approaches in the new AppleTv original film, The Banker, opening this week in limited release. Anthony Mackie (Avengers Endgame, 8 Mile) plays Bernard S. Garrett, a black man who was raised in Texas in the 1950s. Garrett has a unique kind of genius, one he applies as he grows up into investing in the real estate market. In the early 1960s, he moves with his wife Eunice (Nia Long) to Los Angeles, where his plan is to invest in real estate in predominantly white areas as he foresees the rise of the growing black middle and upper class and the need for better housing for urban professionals. He struggles in finding landowners willing to sell property to him or give him capital. After some setbacks, he eventually connects with Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), another self-made entrepreneur in the black community in L.A., to team up to buy the famous Bankers Building in L.A. To do this, he needs a frontman given the politics of the time, a white face that they can use to get them in the door of power. They find him in Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult), an ambitious young contractor who works for Garrett that wants to prove himself. Their collective successes together drive them to Texas, where Garrett sees an opportunity to further help their cause and that of other black entrepreneurs by buying banks, to spite the regulations in Texas that keep them outside the world of finance. This leads to victories, but also to dangerous situations that place their businesses and lives at risk.

There are a lot of twists and turns in Nolfi’s film and it is to the credit of the script, Nolfi’s direction, and the talent involved that the film keeps you engaged throughout. The film makes a lot of important points about the time that many might not be aware of; such as the shared negative social distinction between the Irish and Black communities as migrant workers were seen as parasitic; taking jobs from Americans, but tolerated because they served certain social utilities. Colm Meaney shines in his role in the film explaining this dichotomy. But the film works because of the chemistry between Hoult, Jackson, and Mackie, whose charisma carries across the screen. The film says a lot about the changing role of race in the 1960s from a different perspective than we usually get in film and makes that journey compelling and engrossing as a viewer.

Overall, The Banker is an engaging drama, a period piece that tells a different story with a personal point of view. The talent involved makes it worth the watch. The twists take you on an intriguing journey and give you an insight into the historical context of social injustice in regards to the infrastructure of business and the human cost to that. A compelling journey on all counts.