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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.89%
Worth A Look47.37%
Average: 21.05%
Pretty Bad: 15.79%
Total Crap: 7.89%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Bank, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

3 stars

The Bank is a superficially attractive thriller about corporate greed in the banking industry.

David Wenham is Jim Boyle, an idealistic mathematician who's headhunted by the Melbourne head office of the megalithic CentaBank. By combining fractal theory and econometric modelling, Boyle thinks he's found a means of predicting the ebbs and flows of the stock market. CentaBank's managing director, the snake-like Simon O'Reilly (Anthony LaPaglia), throws money and technology at Boyle's BTSE (Bank Trading Simulation Experiment), and pressures him for fast, profitable results.

O'Reilly tells Boyle that he's God - "with a better suit". In the schema of writer Robert Connolly (working from an idea by Brian Price and Mike Betar), he is of course the Devil, who seduces Boyle with a Faustian bargain. Boyle's conscience is Michelle Roberts (Sibylla Budd), a recently promoted teller who's cynical about CentaBank's contempt for its smaller customers. To underline the bank's methods and business "ethics", there's a parallel story of a struggling family destroyed by foreclosure on a loan for which CentaBank had failed to fully disclose the risks involved.

Connolly produced The Boys, the most powerful Australian film of 1998; this is his directorial debut. The Bank is certainly slick to look at. Cinematographer Tristan Milani moves his cameras effortlessly from bush to basement to high-rise office and the images fill the big screen - the look of The Bank is superior to an episode of a TV thriller.

The performances are enjoyable. LaPaglia is all testosterone - he's aggressive, swears to intimidate his underlings, puffs on cigars and thinks with his dick. His American drawl is perfect for this role; it's a cartoonish performance, but appropriate for the script. Wenham is adept at playing agreeable, but we initially learn so little about him that he comes across as bland. Sibylla Budd (from the TV drama The Secret Life of Us) makes a believable teller, even if she's saddled with some awful dialogue. The husband and wife "little Aussie battlers" are played by Steve Rodgers and Mandy McElhinney, who look the part and, like Budd's character, reflect the prevailing public distrust of banks. Mitchell Butel is just right in his small role as the lawyer who takes on CentaBank.

But the tone of the film is slightly off. The Bank seems to be set in late 2002, so recreating the bustling trading floor of the 1980s and early 1990s looks anachronistic. Alan John's heavily orchestrated choral score is distracting. It's suited to the opening credits' swirling fractals, but is inappropriate in virtually every other scene (and when a scene could have used some backing, there was silence).

The chief problem with The Bank lies in its climax and conclusion (stop reading here if you don't want the ending revealed). O'Reilly chastises Boyle for his "bleeding liberal heart". Connolly sides with O'Reilly in the end. Boyle may be using his wits against O'Reilly, but he still has to crush him and win the contest. Never mind any innocents caught in the crossfire. It's as if financially ruining a huge corporation like CentaBank is fine, despite the likely devastating effect the collapse will have on staff and customers, so long as O'Reilly and some of the Board of Directors lose their jobs or go to prison.

The CentaBank that Boyle plots against is the institution that visits his primary school when he's a child, distributing moneyboxes with fifty cent to kick-start each kid's savings. Connolly's flashback introduction contrasts the CentaBank of the 1970s with the present to stir the righteous anger of audience members who probably recall receiving a moneybox during their own primary school education.

The Bank feeds on public resentment about banks, but not in a positive or constructive way. This is a revenge fantasy where the hero's results put him on a par with the enemy. Sure, seeing an arrogant bank brought down may fit the Australian public mood, but so would a film about repelling refugees. Ultimately, The Bank is all about hate - and that's ugly.

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originally posted: 11/06/01 08:18:11
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User Comments

10/02/09 J.H lol 4 stars
1/14/05 Gullytrap A Twiliht Zone plot for children disguised as an art movie. Ouch. 1 stars
6/16/04 miss ward poorly done 1 stars
5/12/04 Linda a movie unreal and sometimes ridiculous, but also amusing and rich in ethcal messages 3 stars
5/10/04 john bale Home grown telemovie style Bank expose, visually flat, LaPaglia tries hard. Doesn't excite. 3 stars
2/12/04 DeathSyndrome It's a pretty good movie.... 4 stars
11/12/01 Andrew Robinson I work in a bank and found it hilarious 5 stars
10/31/01 mindwarp Mandelbrot tie-in a bit weak, great anti-establishment film, and you don't feel spoonfed. 4 stars
10/22/01 tom green I thought sibylla budd was fantastic, much better than the two men. 5 stars
10/16/01 viking Anthony La Paglia is an Aussie Gordon Gecko 4 stars
10/03/01 Garth Elliott Enjoyable, though some repercussions of plot ignored, and a line at the end a bit too glib 4 stars
9/25/01 matthew smith outstanding 5 stars
9/25/01 Graham Bucknell Utter Shite 1 stars
9/13/01 Pierce Lanson Very convincing about corporate greed. Wonderful photography, good story. 4 stars
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  06-Sep-2001 (M)

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