REVIEW: THE BANKER

Samuel L. Jackson, Nia Long, Nicholas Hoult, and Anthony Mackie in The Banker (2020)

Starring

Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers Assemble)
Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War)
Nicholas Hoult (Dark Phoenix)
Nia Long (47 Meters Down: Uncaged)
Scott Daniel Johnson (Raising Dion)
Taylor Black (Dynasty)
Michael Harney (A Star Is Born)
Colm Meaney (Star Trek: DS9)
Paul Ben-Victor (Daredevil)
Jessie Usher (Sgaft)
Gregory Alan Williams (Brightburn)
Rhoda Griffis (Runaway Jury)

 

Samuel L. Jackson, Nia Long, Nicholas Hoult, and Anthony Mackie in The Banker (2020)Though an original idea in film certainly helps grow the medium out of the sequel/remake doldrums, not every movie has to break new ground in the way it tells its story. Sometimes traditional, A-B-C storytelling about something interesting and/or truthful can still inspire those who are watching. And inspiration, not innovation, is AppleTV+’s The Banker’s primary goal.Directed by Goerge Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) with considerable confidence (aided, no doubt, by Apple’s limitless checkbook), The Banker aims to not only transport the audience to another time but teach them a lesson as well. The tried-and-true traditional storytelling techniques thus make it more of a fun, expected ride rather than a preachy history lesson.The Banker centers around Bernard Garrett played with stoic seriousness by the usual live-wire Anthony Mackie. Garrett is a mathematical genius with the will and desire to apply said genius to the real estate world. There is only one problem: it’s the 1950s in America and Garrett is black. Even in Los Angeles, away from his rundown, segregated hometown in Texas, Garrett experiences the ingrained racism the United States has to offer. Even in his most brilliant suits and despite his calm, academic demeanor, buying white properties in LA becomes an endless battle. But after teaming up with the enigmatic Joe Morris (Samuel L Jackson), a successful black businessman who owns dozens of properties, Garrett decides to use white family friend and mathematical novice Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) to be the public figurehead for business deals in LA, with Morris and Garrett acting as silent partners so the white residents of their buildings don’t know any different. It leads to a decade of successful real estate purchases in which Garrett and Morris become co-owners of hundreds of buildings in white-only areas, including the tallest commercial building in LA.But when Garrett wants to move back to Texas to help the black community acquire property, they realize the only way to successfully infiltrate the much more racist market is to own a bank. Thus Garrett and Morris’ clever scheme of using Steiner as a front for their business dealings takes on new challenges. For real estate is a cinch for Garrett and Morris but what do they know of banking? With everyone from local bigots to the federal government swirling around potential bank deals, Garrett is about to come across the biggest challenge of his life. As mentioned before, The Banker doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to presentation. It tells a very straightforward story and allows the cast to do the heavy lifting. Mackie is particularly good playing against type. Most popular as the wise-cracking sidekick to Captain America, Mackie’s somewhat forgotten dramatic chops get a refresher course as his straight man routine carries the film. Garrett’s no-nonsense nature and simmering passion is what gives the film its dramatic core. But it is also his quiet confidence that keeps the film measured; there is no room for melodrama here.z3t2cwzm1m341Mackie playing against type allows Samuel L Jackson to be more like himself as the charismatic foil to Garrett. Jackson, now in his 70s, is still as engaging and exciting to watch as ever and his cool guy routine isn’t out of place in this serious drama. Backing up the two leads is the always likable Nicholas Hoult as real estate/banking rookie Steiner and Nia Long as Garrett’s wife Eunice, who stands by her man with pride and fortitude, sometimes steering the action herself. Effortlessly transporting the audience to ’50s/’60s California and Texas, Apple’s considerable funds allow for the production design and costume design to perform a total transformation of the physical setting. Though their might be a little too much polish to make this feel like a lived-in environment, the seduction of shots of full city streets with period-specific cars and top of the line suits and dresses makes for engaging, if not beautiful, cinema.OIg1ybNRegardless of how it looks though, The Banker relies on what it says about our culture to carry the day and the film succeeds in speaking truth to power. Not only is the story inspiring for what occurred in the past, but it can serve as an example of how to move forward as well. In today’s society, where tribalism is becoming more and more acute and politics so polarizing, the dehumanization of entire groups can become all too real. The Banker shows that it isn’t the color of our skin or the money in our pockets that drives us but our own internal passion and industriousness. With brainpower and positivity comes results and, as Variety reported, the filmmakers “stand by the film and “its positive message of empowerment”.”5cnDFp6It is that dedication to empowerment that allows superb casting and production design to simply stand as icing on the cake. The Banker looks good but it feels good too. And upon its release, you should go out and watch it.

REVIEW: INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

INDEPENDEDNCE DAY 2 3D

CAST

Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Jessie Usher (Almost Christmas)
Bill Pullman (The Grudge)
Maika Monroe (The 5th Wave)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Judd Hirsch (Tower Heist)
Corin Nemec (Stargate SG.1)
Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Angelababy (Hitman: Agent 47)
Robert Loggia (Psycho II)
Joey King (The Dark Knight Rises)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Ryan Cartwright (Bones)
Mckenna Grace (I, Tonya)

Twenty years after a devastating alien invasion, the United Nations has set up the Earth Space Defense (ESD), a global defense and research program to reverse-engineer alien technology and serve as Earth’s early warning system against extraterrestrial threats. The main defense force utilizes equipment salvaged from the remains of the alien forces and operates military bases built on the Moon, Mars, and Rhea. The Area 51 base in Nevada has become the ESD Headquarters.The world is preparing to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their survival after the invasion. In the provincial African state Republique Nationale d’Umbutu, ESD Director David Levinson meets with Dr. Catherine Marceaux and warlord Dikembe Umbutu, who lead him to an intact alien destroyer. Aboard the ship, they discover that the alien occupants sent a distress call to their home planet before being defeated. Furthermore, Umbutu, former U.S. President Thomas Whitmore, and Dr. Brackish Okun (who awakens at Area 51 after a twenty-year coma)—all of them once telepathically linked with the aliens ever since their personal encounters with them—have of late been receiving strange visions of an unidentifiable spherical object.An unidentified spherical ship, with design and technology different from that of the aliens who attacked 20 years earlier, emerges from a wormhole near the ESD’s Moon defense headquarters. Levinson believes that it belongs to another extraterrestrial race that might be benevolent and urges the world’s Security Council not to attack, but they vote to shoot it down regardless. Against the Council’s orders, pilots Jake Morrison and Charlie Miller pick up Levinson, Marceaux, Umbutu, and U.S. federal controller Floyd Rosenberg on a space tug, and they head for the wreckage near the Van de Graaff crater, where they recover a container. An alien mothership 3,000 miles (4,800 km) in diameter suddenly emerges and destroys Earth’s planetary defenses before approaching the planet. The space tug is caught in the mothership’s gravitational pull, which lifts objects from across Asia, causing massive damage on its path. The debris falls all over Europe, where the tug manages to escape before heading on to Area 51. The mothership lands over the north of the Atlantic Ocean, destroying cities on the Eastern Seaboard, and begins drilling a hole through the bottom of the ocean floor to harvest the Earth’s core for fuel, which will destroy both its magnetic field and atmosphere in the process, killing all life.Whitmore’s group interrogates one of the aliens held in captivity from the war, who has recently awoken from a 20-year catatonic state. The ESD learns that the aliens exist in eusociality and that one of their colossal Queens is commanding the invasion. Levinson hypothesizes that, if they kill the supervising Queen, her forces will cease drilling and retreat. An ESD aerial fleet, led by Captain Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, stages a counterattack on the Queen’s chamber, but they are caught in a trap within the mothership, which nearly wipes out the entire unit. In Area 51, Okun opens the container and releases a giant white sphere of virtual intelligence; indeed benevolent and more advanced than the attacking aliens. It reveals that its mission is to evacuate survivors from worlds targeted by the aliens, whom it calls “Harvesters”, and that it has gathered a viable resistance force against the Harvesters, hidden in a refugee planet at a location unknown to the Harvesters. Despite being the last of its kind, the sphere implores the humans to destroy it in order to prevent the Harvesters from discovering the location of the planet where it has hidden the survivors. In the mothership, Dylan, Jake, and other survivors manage to escape by hijacking enemy attack craft, and pursue the Queen’s personal ship, which is heading to Area 51 with its convoy.Knowing the Queen has become aware of the sphere’s presence, the ESD forces hide it in an isolation chamber and use a decoy to lure the Queen’s ship to a trap filled with fusion weapons. Against his daughter Patricia’s wishes, Whitmore volunteers to pilot the space tug on the suicide mission, leading the warship to the trap and detonating the bombs, thus sacrificing himself and destroying the ship. However, the Queen survives by using an energy shield on her biomechanical suit. Several fighters fire at the Queen, but the shield protects her.However, Patricia manages to fire through a gap in the shield when the Queen prepares to fire her own gun, thereby disabling the Queen’s shield, allowing Dylan’s arriving party to kill the Queen before she can take the sphere. With the Queen dead, all the remaining alien fighters are rendered inactive, while the mothership stops drilling and retreats to space. Okun reveals that the sphere has asked humanity to lead its resistance and has offered the humans new technology in preparation for a counterattack to assault the Harvesters’ home world and take the fight to the aliens.The action is decent. The jeopardy level is good. What it can’t quite offer is the shock of the new that the original gave us. But for fun science fiction action blockbuster escapism, it’s not bad. So it’s an entertaining watch.