Films I Neglected To Review: True(ish) StoriesBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 03/06/20 06:39:17
Please enjoy short reviews of "The Banker," "Greed" and "Run This Town."
Directed and co-written by George Nolfi, whose previous efforts included the not-entirely-uninteresting sci-fi thriller "The Adjustments Bureau" and the deeply uninteresting martial arts epic "Birth of the Dragon," "The Banker" is a slickly told tale that manages to keep things humming along at a fairly consistent hum but it never really comes across as being all that interesting. Perhaps part of the problem is that it is too slick for its own good - you never get any real feel for our heroes, either when they are moving on the way up with their ingenious plan or when everything comes crashing down around them thanks to a combination of hubris, bad decisions and straight-up racism. Likewise, the performances are good on a surface level but we never get any real sense of who these people are and what drives them to push on when common sense would dictate otherwise. If you already have Apple TV+, where it will begin streaming in a couple of weeks after its current theatrical run, it is a painless enough way to pass a couple of hours, I suppose. However, considering the promise of the story being told and the level of talent that has come together to bring it to the screen, "The Banker" cannot help but feel like a bit of a disappointment.
Over the years, Winterbottom has more than proven his bona fides in regards to his social commitments and many of his films have wrestled with the issues of the day in a forthright and direct manner. Throughout "Greed," you can feel his anger at the billionaire class and the carnage left behind in their continued single-minded pursuit of wealth at all costs. The trouble is that he never quite figures out a way to present that anger in either dramatic or satirical terms. He is obviously sincere about the plight of the sweatshop workers in Sri Lanka and Syrian refugees - a group turn up on the island's beach, sending McCreadle into apoplexy as they are ruining his view with their presence--but he never quite manages to engage with those characters or fully explore the issues that they represent. (Winterbottom's usage of them as little more than emotional props doesn't quite hit the level of full exploitation but it comes pretty close at times.) On the other hand, the humor is as broad and unsubtle as the overly gleaming choppers that McCreadle sports and while some of the jokes do hit home at time, the humor is never as cutting as it wants to be. "Greed" is a noble attempt and its heart is clearly in the right place but none of it really works. i pretty much agree with all of the principles that it espouses throughout--I just didn't find it to be very funny.
"Run This Town" is a film that sounds so promising in theory that it is mystifying to watch it and see how badly it handles the material. The screenplay by writer-director Ricky Tollman is a real mess that tries to cram together two storylines when one would have more than sufficed and then proceeds to botch both of them. The one focusing on the journalist doesn't work because our hero in those scenes proves to be an unsympathetic and cravenly ambitious twerp whose constant whines about deserving to be on the story get very tiresome very quickly while the one from the aide's point-of-view, while initially promising, falters once it tries to shoehorn the sexual harassment element in and then proceeds to look upon it more as an afterthought than anything else. In both cases, the rat-a-tat dialogue--presumably meant to emulate the patter of old-school newspaper films like "His Girl Friday"--feels like an arch stylistic construct employed to disguise the fact that the characters, like the film itself, are not actually saying much of anything at all. The other big flaw revolves around the depiction of Ford himself. To play him, the film has Damian Lewis encased in a fat suit that a.) never comes across as convincing for a moment and b.) gives him an unfortunate but undeniable resemblance to the Fat Bastard character from the Austin Powers movies. The story of Rob Ford and all the things that it encompasses will no doubt one day form the foundation for some kind of great movie--perhaps a dark comedy or an incisive drama about the compromises we all make in the name of the greater good. One thing is for sure--"Run This Town" is not that movie.
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