Anyone who defies law is a criminal in the eyes of the state, but who defines these laws? Humans, right? The humans who are imperfect, flawed, discriminative, selfish and so on so forth. Laws should be mended from time to time, because the generation that created them had their personal morality and biasness, like the home-ownership law in the United States of American in the starting 1960s, where a black man couldn’t own a property to his name. The Banker is a revolutionary tale of one such man, Bernard Garrett who fought for the civil rights of his people, particularly stated as Negroes by white men.
Directed by George Nolfi, The Banker, is based on true events, that spotlights the life of Bernard Garrett who infiltrated a white man’s society where the capital is mostly controlled by them, and started his own empire, just to tell the people that a black man can do equally do business, if provided with equal opportunities. Every inch of the film resonates to his revolutionary ideas and socialistic approach towards his people, who are defamed and discriminated for the color of their skin.
The Banker begins with Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) who appears before the court of law to testify. A voice warns him to be careful saying, “They want to make an example out of You.” We soon go back in time, to see young Garrett who polishes shoes but writes in his notebook the equations prevailing in the market. Bernard Garrett wants to start his own business someday, though his dad warns him,
“Negro man can’t earn money like this. White men won’t let him, now matter how good you are at it. You really think, it’s gonna be different for you, then go somewhere else.”
With the single thought provoking interchange between the father and the son, we know how this little boy has put an example to light, by changing what no black man had done so far, own a Property in America.
But his dad warns him that he can’t do that in his hometown Texas.
Soon we see a grown up man, Bernard Garrett with his wife, Eunice (Nia Long), and their son in Los Angeles to start their own real estate business. Through Eunice, Garrett meets a club owner Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), and it sparkles a life long friendship between the two black men. But their conflicts aren’t going to subside so easily, as no white man wishes to sell his property to black men in town. To become the face of their venture, they hire Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult), a working-class white man, and train him to be their surrogate Trojan Horse to get into the spaces they could not enter otherwise. The trio begins their endeavor to start buying the properties in Los Angeles.
However, things get complicated when Garrett decides to buy a bank in his hometown Texas, so that he can lend loans to the black people of the town. His motives are simple and legal enough, he wants to help the folks to get capital and own wealth to flourish, without which they will always be below the poverty line being slaves to the white people.
Do the Right Thing
Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris earned enough by owning as much as 177 real estate buildings to their name. The thing is, wealth didn’t make them great, what they did with it, made them what they were. As Eunice tells Garrett about his decision to do the right thing, “Respect is big thing. Sometimes people take big risks to chase it.”
Cinema is always backed by character choices that supplement a larger than life thought and when a character makes the hard choice, it is well applauded. Even after Morris’ warning, “get rid of the notion that you can save every black man in Texas.” Garrett pursues the selfless act. Garrett with the help of Morris and Steiner buys the national bank in Texas but things get pretty complicated and the FBI ceases their properties as well as arrest them.
At this crossroad, Garrett is given a choice, to get immunity and save his ass or speak the truth about racism and discrimination that might lead to worse consequences. Garrett makes the hard choice, and that is what makes his character great. Garrett testament in front of the jury, might give you chills the same way Mr. King or Abrahim Lincholn would have spoken, it really showcases Anthony Mackie’s performance level, as both these people have references in the film.
Anthony states before the jury,
“ Our nation’s founding document declares, all men are created equal. But we all know that is a lie. Because if a black man can’t get a loan in Texas, he can’t own a home. He can’t start business, which means he can’t build wealth. And he is excluded from the American Dream. Why is it so important to you all to exclude an entire race of people from the American Dream?”
For his statement and his choice to fight against incompetence of law, Garrett is stated to be a criminal. The price he paid for speaking the truth and doing the right thing, maybe in a wrong way, but law and racism sometimes don’t furnish you with many options.
The Banker never puts morality and judgement on question because every action of Barrett seems just.
George Nolfi didn’t treat the character as some hero but he sure made him, as Borris said, “A Goddamn Revolutionary” and that is the most brilliant take to make a lovable humane character, who doesn’t have superpower but intellect and consciousness on their side.
The Banker being true to its thematic nature, is filled with some excellent lines. Though not much of it comes from Anthony Mackie, director showers plenty to Jackson and Nia Long that seems just. When the lead character speaks all the motivational lines, the impact drops down, while if it comes from people beside him, the amplification of drama is unmeasurable high. Jackson, thus, elevates every scene with his rascally character, and with the added influence of Matt, who must learn how to behave and present himself as a rich man from the East Coast, there’s a deeper look at how class factors into the business world. Eunice hasn’t been given much to play around the scenes, but her one note supportive performance is poignant and makes her character memorable.
The Banker has all the flavors of a stirring drama, be it sub plots or the major conflicts. While there is no prominent antagonist, the society does the said work brightly and we get associated with Bernard Garrett journey around, as well have been discriminated against sometime. Gareett’s contribution to society led to the alteration in the law, and George Nolfi’s contribution to Cinema is to portray such an important story upon the screen, which was well needed. It is a well made film, with the right message that strikes the right notes and is sure going to take you on an emotional ride, with a pleasant smile in the end, thanking the makers to narrate such an excellent story about a Real Man’s Struggle and plight.
A special mention to Apple Production House to invest in such important and necessary films.
The Banker is streaming on Apple TV+
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