Well known movie star moguls Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie come together in one of Apple’s first films ‘’The Banker’’. Based on a true story, two African American businessmen in the 1950’s do whatever it takes to become bank owners in a series of events that lead to one of the most pivotal moments in American Civil Rights history.
I was one of the first to see the screening at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema where a line of eager viewers wrapped around the entire theater and out to the parking lot ready to get their tickets.
Even as a kid Garrett (Anthony Mackie) was always fearless and ambitious. Growing up he couldn’t stand the unjust ways black people had to make their living and so he wanted to grasp the knowledge of “how the white man made their money”. Garrett grew up very business minded and was driven by his analytical skills. He and his wife (Nia Long) moved to LA for more opportunities and crossed paths with Joe (Samuel L. Jackson), a cynical owner of multiple buildings throughout Los Angeles. Of his properties one included a Jazz club where Joe and Garrett made their acquaintances. Garrett did not originally trust Joe, but when there was not much Garrett could do with the money he had they came into a partnership to purchase one of the largest commercial buildings in Los Angeles, a 14-story commercial building that held many banker tenants within it. With this building they were able to force the hand on many loaners so that it allowed them to outright purchase large amounts of properties in Los Angeles. This major success couldn’t have been done without the help of Matt (Nicholas Hoult), a hard laborer of the lower class with no education who they presented as the face of the entire banking operation. Due to their limitations in an era where it was uncanny for an African American to even be allowed to request a loan let alone walk into a bank, a white man as the front for the company was their best bet. Bernard and Joe taught Matt everything he needed to know about basic math, banking and golfing. They made it so Matt appealed to the rich tycoons. Even Bernard’s wife, Eunice, helped out with teaching Matt proper etiquette. They may not have been able to get him to understand it all in only a month but luckily Matt had an exceptional memory and would somewhat become a passable candidate for the con artists’ plans.
As most cases turn out, the truth began to unravel towards the second half of the film as they continued their expansion of ownership in other banks in Texas. The bankers signed off on many loans for the less fortunate such as many black owned businesses within the town. Not so long after these honorable acts, they caught the attention of the rest of America. This scrutiny caused Joe and Garrett to face many charges and dismantled all of their efforts to build opportunity for the black Americans through the banks.
The film really immerses you into their era. Giving you a detailed perspective of the hardships these two men had to endure. With all cast members playing a tremendous role in the film, it brought a very compelling history lesson told for many to enjoy. This film has presented a historical steppingstone and would be highly recommended to all audiences.