Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, David Wenham, Sibylla Budd
Director: Robert Connolly
After seeing “The Bank” back in 2002 I thought the recent travails of the financial sector was an ideal time to revisit a movie that puts moral considerations head-to-head with financial ones.
Jim Doyle (David Wenham) is a top mathematician who has developed a complex program that predicts stock market movements and corrections. He hawks it around the banks and under-pressure bank executive Simon O’Reily (Anthony LaPaglia) takes a punt on him. For Jim it is a labour of love which he sees as an ideal “warning system” to help organisations protect their interests. For Simon it is a unique opportunity to put the bank in an advantageous situation and make obscene amounts of money.
Simon will have to convince “bleeding heart liberal” Jim that taking other people’s money is fair game in the trading world. Jim is countenanced by (really) sudden love-interest Michelle (Sibylla Budd) and the bank’s own numbers guru, Vincent (Greg Stone).
Meanwhile, in a separate story strand, we see the financially-stricken Davis family (Steve Rodgers and Mandy McElhinney) who are struck by personal tragedy, a tragedy for which they indirectly attribute blame to the bank (although initially ambiguous, we correctly assume that it is the bank Simon runs). A reluctant solicitor (Mitchell Butel) agrees to represent them in a court case that brings the two story strands together.
Can Jim perfect his program and, if he does, will he allow Simon to abuse it for financial gain? Will he have a choice?
An Australian production, I recalled enjoying “The Bank” immensely and the years in between have done it no harm at all. Written and directed by Robert Connolly, at 104 minutes it’s a well-paced and occasionally suspenseful film that is filled with simple layers of intrigue and a twist that feels just about right.
Anthony LaPaglia never fails to entertain and he is undoubtedly the star of the show here. He’s always comfortable on screen and convincingly pulls off lines like “I’m God, but with a better suit”, then later on shines in a Pacino-style rant when faced with a life-or-death situation.
Wenham has had his film success too albeit with smaller roles (“300”, “Van Helsing”, parts 2 and 3 of “Lord of the Rings”, “Moulin Rouge”) and he is absolutely fine here. His romance with the annoying Michelle is necessary for the story but it never really clicks.
In parts the movie lacks subtlety. The director casts the most ordinary actors in terms of talent and looks in order to portray the Davis family as “Everyman” as possible. It’s also pretty obvious that we’re to be repulsed by the dismissive regard that the bank has for the Davis’ court action and the tasteless jokes that Simon’s aides make about the family. But these are minor criticisms in what is a surprisingly winning thriller.
The tagline says it all: Public enemy number one – The Bank.